This Award is Big: Becka Viau honoured by governor general

Charlottetown artist Becka Viau has earned national recognition for her efforts to make P.E.I. "the best place for artists to live and create."

This Town is Small brings P.E.I. art closer to the public

Becka Viau with her Governor General's medal. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

Charlottetown artist Becka Viau has earned national recognition for her efforts to make P.E.I. "the best place for artists to live and create."

Viau was presented with a Governor General's medal Monday for her role in the founding of This Town is Small, an artist-run centre for contemporary art.

"I was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude," said Viau of the award.

"I give to the community because I believe in it, and I believe in the positive social impacts of art and its power to move people in positive ways. I do that without expecting recognition back, so I was surprised, actually, when I got a call from the governor general's office."

Art in the Open has brought contemporary art to public attention in Charlottetown. (Cate Proctor)

Viau founded This Town is Small when she returned to the Island after finishing her first art degree at NSCAD in 2008.

It was a move her art professors did not recommend. P.E.I., they told her, had little in the way of an active art scene and was far removed from art markets. But Viau felt she could change that.

"My dream is P.E.I. becomes the best place for artists to live and create," she said.

My dream is P.E.I. becomes the best place for artists to live and create.- Becka Viau

And This Town is Small has changed the local art scene. Art in the Open, held in the last weekend in August, attracts thousands to see contemporary artworks in Charlottetown's downtown. The inaugural P.E.I. Fest next month will celebrate the intersection of film, food and ideas. The group also sponsors two small galleries in public spaces.

Viau is hopeful This Town is Small will soon earn operational funding, so it can hire a co-ordinator. In the meantime, she will continue to operate it as a volunteer.

Viau was presented with her award by Governor General David Johnston in Moncton on Monday.