It was a complete surprise, and very exciting. There can be a lot of complicated feelings attached to winning awards and being recognized as part of a community; and I have a greater sense of responsibility to this community than I did before.
The Alliance for Arts+Culture partners with the City of Vancouver to present the Mayor's Arts Awards (and it was a pleasure to be shepherded through the process by Alliance for Arts staff Amanda and Taylor). These awards are sort of unique in their format, because they seem to have community-building as part of their intention: after the Honouree is chosen by a panel of past winners, the Honouree gets to choose an 'Emerging Artist' in their category; and the Emerging Artist is also recognized with an award. The room was full of pride and love as the Honourees accepted their awards and spoke about the people they had chosen as the Emerging Artists.
Sharon Kallis was this year's Honouree in the category of Craft and Design; and she chose me as the Emerging Artist. This required a special order in council for permission, since Sharon and I technically work together as the officers of the EartHand Gleaners Society. I can't remember much of what she said about why she chose me (because I was concentrating on not passing out on stage at the time), except that she admires the way I balance the process of working with community with the belief that the finished product needs to be aspirational. In other words, I believe that working with raw materials like sticks and vines can -- and should -- result in inspiring work; if it doesn't, the work will fall short of its potential impact in winning hearts and minds to the other ways of being inherent in the materials and process.
The ceremony was held at the Roundhouse, beginning with a meet-and-greet and a photo shoot with the mayor. After my butterflies wore off and I got into the groove, it was a pleasure to see friends and acquaintances and be introduced to new people.
I'm grateful that I've received this recognition, and these are a few of the people, groups and circumstances that have made it possible for me to be here, calling myself a professional artist, at this time:
Sharon Kallis, my mentor, If I hadn't met her at the Urban Weaver Project (half a decade already?), then where would I be now? Also Marina Szijarto, who gave me my first gig at a festival; Joan Carrigan, who taught me at my first basket weaving workshop; Alistair Heseltine, who introduced me to willow and whose perspective inspires me and pushes me ever; and to Naoko Furue and Frances Dorsey, who blessed my 'mission' even when none of us could really figure out what it was.
The Vancouver Park Board, one of our main supporters. The Park Board has been really supportive of Sharon's work and EartHand Gleaners Society, and by extension, a lot of my work, too; EartHand Gleaners Society occupies the field houses at Trillium North Park as our home base for community-engaged art making and stewardship activities. The Park Board provides opportunities and encouragement for all kinds of artistic practices that connect Vancouverites with nature.
Phil Graham, and Georgia and Oliver, my family. A little bit of income is better than none; and better than both parents trying to work full-time!
Metro Vancouver Housing, affordable family housing that accommodates my studio. What counts as 'market rent' with these folks is currently about 60% of the going rate on Craigslist -- enough green space outside for the kids to run around freely; and enough space inside to include a studio.