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Author, painter, ‘master composter’ among Edmonton Art Council’s award recipients

Local artist, Yong Fei Guan,  at the Paint Spot.
Local artist, Yong Fei Guan, at the Paint Spot. CREDIT: Edmonton Arts Council

EDMONTON – Eighteen local artists will be honoured Monday evening at the Edmonton Arts Council’s award presentation. Cultural Diversity in the Arts grants will be handed out as well as Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund awards.

“We are so pleased to support and celebrate these 18 talented Edmontonians,” Anne Ferguson-Stwitzer, the council’s chair, said.

“I’m astounded at the range and diversity of this year’s recipients, and look forward to the projects and performances that will result from the investments made.”

Among those receiving Cultural Diversity in the Arts program grants are an award-winning science fiction author, a filmmaker who captures the stories of former Edmonton sex workers and a photographer who highlights the experiences of a newcomer to Edmonton.

The Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund provides awards of $7,500 to encourage artists to stay in the city. This year’s recipients include a musician, a dancer, comedienne and co-founder of the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts.

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Recipients of the 2015 Cultural Diversity in the Arts program:

Malcolm Azania

  • AKA Minister Faust;
  • Award-winning author of contemporary science fiction and fantasy;
  • Current project is a 200-page haunting, elegiac novel about John Ware, Canada’s first cowboy and African-Albertan legend.

Shreela Chakrabartty

  • Filmmaker passionate about showcasing South Asian culture in Canada;
  • Current film project highlights the story of the Hindu monk, Swami Vivekananda, on his way to give his hallmark speech at the World Parliament of Religions in 1893.

Rubén Contreras

  • Used films to advocate while growing up in Mexico;
  • Current project captures the healing stories of former Edmonton sex workers to inspire public awareness, dialogue and empowerment.

Yong Fei Guan

  • Painter, illustrator and master composter who is finalizing the creation of a picture book about composting;
  • Fei’s book will help familiarize young children with the concept of worm composting and reducing household waste.

Todd Houseman

  • Performer and Aboriginal Peoples Interpreter;
  • Along with Ben Gorodetsky, a first generation Russian-Canadian theatre artist, make up improv duo Folk Lordz;
  • The duo will be furthering the development of Folk Lordz with research into Cree/Blackfoot war stories and Ashkenazi Jewish shtetl stories.
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Shumaila Hemani

  • PhD student in Ethnomusicology at the University of Alberta
  • Explores the traditional musical styles of Khayal, Kafi and Waee to produce an album and perform her pieces in concert;
  • One of the first Pakistani women to perform many of these styles on stage.

Juan Lopezdabdoub

  • Born in El Salvador and moved to Canada in 1991 to flee the Salvadoran civil war;
  • Describes himself as a visual storyteller;
  • Work highlights political, social and philosophical subjects;
  • Will be exploring the concept of emotional baggage in his latest painting and video project.

Emmanuel Osahor

  • Moved to Edmonton from Nigeria to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Alberta;
  • Recognized with a BMO 1st Art! Award;
  • Drawing from his personal history, Osahor will be documenting the newcomer settlement experience in Edmonton through photography.

Elsa Robinson

  • Has a strong connection to her Jamaican heritage;
  • Professional artist and teaches workshops for children and adults;
  • Her new body of work will reflect on how people transition from different emotional, spiritual or physical places.

Amena Shehab

  • Found a career as a stage manager and producer for theatre and television in Syria and Qatar;
  • Changing political environment prompted a move to Canada;
  • Together with Mieko Ouchi, Shehab is developing a one-woman play to share the story of a Syrian girl’s journey to a new life.
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Recipients of the 2015 Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund:

Malcolm Azania

  • AKA Minister Faust;
  • Award-winning author who engages in the community to promote the literary arts;
  • During his time as the University of Alberta’s Writer-in-Residence, Azania reached out to diverse communities on campus and across Edmonton, and initiated the Authorpalooza series.

Thom Bennett

  • An accomplished musician;
  • An integral part of Edmonton’s arts community;
  • Performer and recording engineer, producer, composer, and instructor;
  • Recently set up the Edmonton Live Music Initiative to strengthen the community.

Raylene Campbell

  • An accordionist, improviser, composer, performance artist, audio/video artist, sound designer, and Deep Listening instructor;
  • Has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Bard College in New York;
  • Two-decade history of professional performance and gallery presentation internationally.

Curtis Gillespie

  • Invested in Edmonton’s cultural vitality
  • A teacher, mentor, author, co-founder of the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts;
  • Former president of LitFest;
  • Founder of Edmonton’s newest narrative journalism magazine Eighteen Bridges.

Ainsley Hillyard

  •  Riveting performer and vibrant member of Edmonton’s dance community;
  • Founding member of Good Women Dance;
  • Creates and performs works for local companies;
  • Classes and mentorship of Victoria High School dance students.

Gerry Morita

  • Dancer and enthusiastic collaborator;
  • Has led Mile Zero Dance as Artistic Director for the past 10 years;
  • Promotes contemporary dance locally, nationally and internationally.
  • Mentors artists and students in the development of their artistic voice in movement
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Jana O’Connor

  • Views the world through a comedic lens;
  • Values the arts as a tool to shine a light on current issues and to inspire social change;
  • Career evolved from performing theatre and improv to becoming a playwright;
  • Rooted and devoted to Edmonton’s theatre community.

Matthew Wood

  • AKA CREEAZN;
  • Empowers youth using music and dance;
  • Combines hip-hop with traditional Indigenous art to guide the students he works with in self expression, healing and cultural discovery;
  • Prominent member of Edmonton’s hip-hop community;
  • Founder of Cypher Wild YEG on Churchill Square.