Canada’s visual arts scene shone brilliantly in sync with the Gulf Islands arts community on Saturday, Oct. 21 at the fifth biennial Salt Spring National Art Prize (SSNAP) and fourth Parallel Art Show (PAS) gala at ArtSpring.
Some $50,000 in prizes was awarded to 10 Canadian artists in the month-long SSNAP show of 52 works exhibited at Mahon Hall and $7,500 went to four Salt Spring Island artists in the 44-finalist PAS exhibit of work by Gulf Islands artists in the ArtSpring gallery space.
Parallel Art Show prize winners were:
• Matt Steffich Jurors’ Choice Award ($3,000): Diana Sanderson for Fragile Reflections.
• Viewers’ Choice, First ($2,000): Garry Kaye for Frosty Field.
• Viewers’ Choice, Second ($1,500): Sibéal Foyle for Hannah on a Tripod.
• Viewers’ Choice, Third ($1,000): Jane Kidd for Inheritance Gown 3.
SSNAP winners were:
• Joan McConnell Award ($20,000): Sarah-Mecca Abdourahman, Ottawa, Ont. for Sambuza After School.
• SSNAP Residency ($6,000): Lynn Kodeih of Montreal, Que.
• Juror’s Choice – Richard Hunt ($4,000): Martin Blanchet, St-Emile-de-Suffolk, Que.for La tête dans les nuages.
• Juror’s Choice – Pierre-François Ouellette ($4,000): Rydel Cerezo, Surrey, B.C. for Darius.
• Juror’s Choice – Gaëtane Verna: ($4,000) Bruce van Slyke, Burnaby, B.C. for Now I Am Alone #20.
• Juror’s Choice – Helga Pakasaar: ($4,000) Daniel Labutes, Medicine Hat, Alta. for Crusty but Compelling.
• People’s Choice, First ($3,500): Maureen O’Connor, Toronto, Ont. for The Meadow Version 3.
• People’s Choice, Second ($2,500): Cheyenne Rain LeGrande, Edmonton, Alta. for Mullyanne Nîmito maskotêw.
• People’s Choice, Third ($1,000): Katy Biele, Victoria, B.C. for El Manto.
• People’s Choice, Youth Vote ($1,000): David Shepherd, Hamilton, Ont. for Whiffshot and Grace.
In addition to Joan McConnell, other prize sponsors were Margaret Day of The Point gallery (for the residency), the Wettstein family, the Wilding Foundation, Windsor Plywood, Nina and John Cassils, Michael Whitfield and Country Grocer.
For the first time this year the residency prize was determined by evaluating specific submissions for the residency rather than it being part of the top prize. Kodeih was one of 26 SSNAP artists attending the gala and was also part of an exciting Oct. 19 SSNAP ceramic artists panel at Mahon Hall.
During the gala event, SSNAP founding director Ron Crawford spoke to the event’s unique character.
“It’s unique because it was a prize begun by artists, so it’s a prize that artists want to be part of that artists designed. And then on top of that, it basically is supported and done by a community: a community of sponsors and a community of people and a community of artists. That’s unheard of. It’s not a government-funded art show. It’s not a corporation-funded art show. It’s an art show created by artists for artists.”
SSNAP invites submissions from across Canada every other year. This year the four nationally known jurors — Richard Hunt, Pierre-François Ouellette, Gaëtane Verna and Helga Pakassar — chose 52 finalists from 2,158 submitted works. Jurors make selections through viewing artwork images and reading artist statements, with no names attached. Three local jurors — Sophia Burke, Helen Mears and Richard Steel — chose 44 artworks from the 201 submitted by Southern Gulf Islands artists. Martin Herbert of Salt Spring and April Winter of Mayne Island had pieces selected for both shows.
SSNAP show manager Anthony Matthews explained how the jurors were brought to Salt Spring in mid October, when they saw the pieces for the first time in person and selected the prize winners.
“It’s one thing of course to choose the submissions for the finalist exhibition by photographs. But you really want to see the work when we’re talking about giving away distinguished prizes,” he said. “The professionalism and attention shown by the jurors and the spirit that they exhibit towards the prize and our philosophy has been exemplary.”
Joan McConnell, the 97-year-old patron of the top SSNAP prize since its inception, said a few words before Abdourahman was announced as the winner of the $20,000 award.
“I just think life without art is a very sad place to be. We can always find money to fight stupid wars and things, but no — to get art is difficult. It’s not an easy job to ask all of you talented people to give up your time and to create the art that we so enjoy . . . I’m very glad that you all exist and have made my life a better life — because you do.”