Ceramicist Walter Ostrom wins Nova Scotia's Portia White Award

Walter Ostrom, a Lunenburg, N.S.-based ceramic artist and instructor, has won the $25,000 Portia White Award, given annually to a person who has made a contribution to the Nova Scotia arts community.

Walter Ostrom, a Lunenburg, N.S.-based ceramic artist and instructor, has won the $25,000 Portia White Award, given annually to a person who has made a contribution to the Nova Scotia arts community.

Ostrom was honoured Saturday in Halifax at a gala which also saw awards go to six other members of Nova Scotia's creative community.

The award is named for Truro-born Portia White, who was a teacher in Africville and went on to become an internationally recognized contralto singer. White coached young Nova Scotia singers after retiring from the stage.

Ostrom's earthenware made from Nova Scotia clay has been collected by the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

He came to Canada in 1969 from the U.S. to teach at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and has also been a visiting professor at the Jingdezhen Ceramics Institute in Jiangxi, China.

Ostrom said he was "incredibly impressed and moved that I've won this award. This is the first award I've ever received in Nova Scotia and I'm especially honoured that it's associated and named for Portia White."

"She was such a talented person, but in my business as a teacher, you get talented people, and really, there's got to be more to it than that," he told CBC News. "She had the heart and strength and courage and the determination that you really, really need, but on top of that, can you imagine that she was a person of colour in the '50s — you just can't help but admire someone like that."

Ostrom wins $18,000 for his personal use — money he says will go toward buying heritage ceramics and a trip to China to work with ceramicists there.

He has named the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design as a protege, awarding the remaining $7,000 of the prize to a scholarship fund.

"You just can't lose by investing in young people in scholarships. That really made me feel useful," Ostrom said.

The Prix Grand-Pré, an award of $2,000 for Acadian artists, went to June Deveau, a visual artist from La Baie Sainte Marie.

Deveau creates oil and acrylic paintings inspired by her community's culture, including works showing traditional Acadian farm life, ocean scenes and Acadian musicians.

The Nova Scotia Arts and Culture Partnership Council, which administers the awards, also gave five Established Artist Recognition Awards.

The $5,000 prizes go to:

  • Playwright Catherine Banks, author of Bitter Rose, Bone Cage and Missy and Me.
  • Digital media artist David Clark who created internet-based work A is for Apple.
  • Ceramics artists Deb Kuzyk and Ray Mackie, potters and owners of Lucky Rabbit Pottery.
  • Laurie Swim, who creates beautiful quilts inspired by Nova Scotia landscapes.
  • Ken Schwartz, artistic director and co-founder of Two Planks and a Passion Theatre in Canning, N.S.