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32nd ArtsNL Arts Awards

The 32nd annual ArtsNL Arts Awards returned to St. John’s this year, after travelling to the west coast to be held in Stephenville last year. The award gala was held in the theatre at The Rooms on Friday, April 28, 2017, and was emceed by CBC Newfoundland and Labrador (CBCNL) host of On The Go, Ted Blades.

Rex Brown receives award

Rex Brown receives the 2016 ArtsNL Patron of the Arts Award from Hon. Christopher Mitchelmore, Minister for the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation.

The evening was a particularly special one with a number of honoured guests in attendance – outside of the award finalists, of course. ArtsNL was privileged to have the Honourable Christopher Mitchelmore, Minister of Tourism, Culture, Industry, and Innovation on hand to represent the provincial government as well as to present an award. Also in attendance was Memorial University Chancellor, Dr. Susan Knight to present the Memorial University Arts in Education Award, as well as representatives from BMO Bank of Montreal, Cox & Palmer, and CBCNL who also made presentations.

This year’s gala was also significant as it notably returned to being broadcasted in a new and innovative way thanks to an expanded partnership with CBCNL, who produce the video reels. This year, CBCNL broadcasted the awards gala digitally through Facebook LIVE and their YouTube channel. The broadcast garnered over 8,300 viewers during the live event, and the archive video of gala is now available below, and on the ArtsNL YouTube channel.

Eastern Owl accepts emerging artist award

Eastern Owl accepting the 2016 CBC Emerging Artist award.


In total, six awards were bestowed throughout the show including one induction to the ArtsNL Hall of Honour and a celebration of the 2016 ArtsNL Patron of the Arts. The evening, however, was kicked off by a welcoming address from ArtsNL Chair Stan Hill who reflected on the busy year of activity for ArtsNL. Hill highlighted everything from the roll out of new digital initiatives to the announcement that the Atlantic regional indigenous arts symposium, Petapan, coordinated by Atlantic Public Arts Funders (APAF) members will be hosted in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2018.

As ArtsNL’s digital transition continues to move forward, Hill shared some details on the eventual roll out of a new online grant application process for 2018. Applicants to ArtsNL programs will no longer have to worry about multiple copies of on-paper applications, and they will not need to gather physical support material. “This is particularly meaningful,” Hill said, “not only will it make the application process easier and more accessible – it will also have a considerable environmental benefit based on the fact that ArtsNL receives over 350 applications to its seven programs each year.”

Hill also recognized the collaborative partnerships that ArtsNL has with a number of partners, as well as the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry, and Innovation and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s Cultural Connections Strategy.  He added that these, “along with our other partners, made it possible for 214 arts organizations, individual artists, community groups, and schools to forge ahead with their creative endeavors thanks to $1.6 million issued in grant funding.”

Chad Stride and Douglas Dunsmore pose

Chad Stride (left), winner of the 2016 Cox & Palmer Arts Achievement Award poses with Douglas Dunsmore (right), ArtsNL Hall of Honour inductee for 2016.


With it also being International Volunteer Week, ArtsNL executive director Reg Winsor acknowledged the hard work that ArtsNL Chair Stan Hill and all the Council members do. Winsor and Hill also indicated their appreciation for the diligent efforts made by ArtsNL staff throughout the year.

As the evening proceeded, a profile was offered on the creator of the award artwork for this year’s gala – visual artist Vessela Brakalova.  Brakalova’s contemporary mosaic pieces, which were presented as the awards, form a collection she calls Genesis, loosely based on the narrative expressed in the biblical book of the same name. The term is also commonly associated with geology and the evolutionary history of life. Each piece has its own name, and they include Chaus, Sky, Light, Conception, Life, and The Sixth Day. The series has exhibited at The Rooms in the past as part of The Free World exhibition which ran from May to September, 2016. You can learn more about the pieces and see them by visiting the award artist profile page here.

The award presentations began with Minister Mitchelmore honouring the ArtsNL Patron of the Arts, Rex Brown. Brown has worked tirelessly to bring artists and audiences together at the annual March Hare to honour the legacy of his friend, Al Pittmann. Pittmann once said to Pamela Morgan, “you sing your songs for me, and I’ll read my poems for you” – a sentiment that embodies the nature of the Hare. Year after year, thanks to Rex that exchange continues.

Catherine Wright accepts her award

Catherine Wright accepting the 2016 Memorial University Arts in Education Award.


The second award of the evening was the 2016 CBC Emerging Artist award, which included Eastern Owl, Melanie Oates, and Ian Vatcher as finalists. Thankful and appreciatively, Eastern Owl took home the award that was presented to them by the host of CBC’s WAM, Heather Barrett.

Up next was the 2016 Memorial University Arts in Education award, introduced by Memorial University Chancellor, Dr. Susan Knight. It was announced that well known arts educator Catherine Wright was the winner. Of the honour, she said there was no bigger reward for her efforts than what she gets back from her students.

Taking repose from the presentations, emcee Ted Blades called for a moment of remembrance and reflection as the lives lived reel was screened. It included a number of individuals who the arts and cultural community had lost over the past year, like Phyllis Angel, Angus Bruneau, Graham Howcroft, Gerry Porter, and Justin Simms to name a few.

Blades then called for ArtsNL Council member Lisa McDonald to step up to the podium to present this year’s ArtsNL Hall of Honour inductee – Douglas Dunsmore.  McDonald, herself a former student of his, called for the video montage before welcoming a heartfelt Dunsmore to accept the award and induction into the hall.

ArtsNL executive director, Reg Winsor, poses with 2016 BMO Bank of Montreal Artist of the Year winner Cheryl Hickman representing Opera on the Avalon, and Robert Chafe who collaborated on Ours and was a finalist himself.


The second last award was the Cox & Palmer Arts Achievement Award for 2016, which was presented by firm partner Paul McDonald. The winner in the category was Chad Stride, who among many other things is the founder of the esteemed Cantus Vocum Chamber Choir. The other finalist up for the honour was Korona Brophy – who was also up for the Memorial University Arts in Education Award.

The BMO Bank of Montreal Artist of the Year award for 2016 was the final presentation of the evening, and Jeffery Silver, Corporate Accounts Manager with BMO Bank of Montreal was on hand for the announcement. Silver called for the finalist reel, highlighting the accomplishments of Robert Chafe, Louise Moyes, and Opera on the Avalon before the final handmade winner-revealing envelope was opened and Silver announced that Opera on the Avalon had won. Artistic Director Cheryl Hickman accepted the award on the organization’s behalf.

In conjunction with the piece of Brakalova’s artwork, each award recipient received a cash prize of $2,500, with the ArtsNL Patron of the Arts and ArtsNL Hall of Honour inductees being the only exceptions.

You can visit the ArtsNL YouTube channel (LINK) right now to check out the video or enjoy the entire gala from start to finish in the video below (running time is one hour).