Performance and visual artist Michael Morris and photographer Geneviève Cadieux are among the latest winners of the Governor General's Awards in visual and media arts.
This year's recipients of the contemporary art prize, announced in Toronto Tuesday morning, hail from across the country:
- Montreal photographer Geneviève Cadieux.
- London, Ont.-born, Toronto-based visual artist Robert Fones.
- British-born, Victoria-based performance and visual artist Michael Morris.
- Vancouver filmmaker David Rimmer.
- Toronto filmmaker Barbara Sternberg.
- Toronto painter Shirley Wiitasalo.
Halifax-based metalsmith Kye-Yeon Son was named winner of the Saidye Bronfman Award for excellence in fine crafts and the Calgary Herald's Nancy Tousley will be honoured with the Outstanding Contribution Award for her 30-year career as an art critic and journalist.
Each recipient will receive a $25,000 prize as well as a newly designed medallion, created by the Canadian Heraldic Authority at the Chancellery of Honours.
"It's a great gift. It's unexpected. To receive a prize, it's always a very pleasurable event," Cadieux told CBC News.
"It means that my work is being recognized by my peers and reinforces the link to the [larger] artistic community, which is a very important community in Canada," she added.
Sternberg also emphasized the importance of artists being recognized with honours such as the Governor General's Award.
"We are so inundated by American media and we don't know what we have in our own country," she said.
"Awards like this bring awareness of our own artists to Canadians. We have artists beyond the Group of Seven. It has continued. It's good we know them, but it seems like we don't know beyond that."
'Hockey is great, but we are not a hockey country exclusively. The importance of culture is not understood or appreciated because there's no coverage of it' —Experimental filmmaker Barbara Sternberg
The experimental filmmaker also blasted media outlets for not shining as bright a light on visual artists as they do sports figures.
"Living in Toronto, I cannot not know when the Blue Jays win the pennant. I cannot not know who Sidney Crosby is because they're everywhere," she declared.
"Hockey is great, but we are not a hockey country exclusively. The importance of culture is not understood or appreciated because there's no coverage of it. In a world where media dominates, you have to step in and have some media coverage of these things. I think Canadian media could do a lot more."
Presented annually by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Governor General, the awards recognize the career achievements of visual and media artists and craftspeople, as well as outstanding contributions made to the arts.
Past winners have included painter Rita Letendre, architect Raymond Moriyama, filmmaker Michael Snow and visual artist AA Bronson.
"As we celebrate the distinguished career achievements of the 2011 Governor General's laureates, we should also recognize that they continue to create new work that inspires and enlightens us," Canada Council chair Joseph L. Rotman said in a statement.
"The creative spirit that lies deep within each artist shapes our nation’s cultural identity; it is for this reason that the eight Canadians we recognize today are truly exceptional."
The eight 2011 award recipients will be celebrated during a ceremony at Rideau Hall on March 23.