At the Mayor’s Luncheon for the Arts on May 25th, the Peterborough Arts Awards, which recognize outstanding achievement in the local arts community, will be presented for the first time.
While these are the inaugural awards, their roots run deep in the community.
Su Ditta, executive director of the Electric City Culture Council (EC3), recalls how she and Liz Bierk — the wife of renowned local artist David Bierk — first came up with the idea of awards to recognize the arts community.
“Liz and I originally recommended to the City that arts awards be established as a legacy project, for the City Centennial celebrations” Su says.
“I recall a summer day in 2005 in Liz’s backyard where she, Randy Read (artistic director of New Stages Peterborough), and I talked about arts awards. Liz took notes and typed them up. I saved them and we still use those as our core messages for material in organizing this event.”
Liz passed away in 2006 at the age of 52, four years after her husband, but her legacy lives on in through the Bierk Art Fund, Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough, established in 2006 to honour her memory and celebrate her life as a patron and advocate for the arts. Six of the Bierk’s seven children, including local artist Alex Bierk, are involved in the arts and music.
While she and Liz conceived of the awards, Su is quick to point out that Bill Lockington — a partner in LLF Lawyers, a photographer and photography teacher, and co-founder of the SPARK Photo Festival — quickly became their champion.
“Around four years ago at the time that EC3 was becoming established, Bill Kimball (of Public Energy) and I visited Bill (Lockington) to explore the idea of the arts awards,” Su recalls. “He immediately agreed and accepted the role of establishing sponsorship of the awards.”
“We had been involved together in the establishment of the Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough where one of the pillars was arts and culture,” Bill adds. “About nine months ago, we got really serious about the awards, we set a date, and EC3 and Su established the criteria and core awards.”
Six awards of $2,000 each will be presented for artists at the early, middle, and late stages of their careers and for an oustanding Indigenous artist, along with two awards to recognize supporters and faciltators of the arts.
EC3, which is administering the awards, has received more than 50 nominations.
“We have an abundance of creative talent in this community,” Bill says. “What was missing was the recognition — an acknowledgment of the importance of the arts and a recognition of our arts excellence.”
Bill, who points out that almost every community in Canada has an event that recognizes the contribution of the arts, took on the role of organizing the sponsorship of the awards. His goal was to establish a solid foundation of sponsorship for five years to allow room for the awards to grow.
“I had a list of ten businesses and patrons to approach,” he recalls. “Within three days I had received all affirmative responses. We had sponsorship of six awards for five years at a level of $60,000, and we have a sponsor of the event at $10,000. The awards will be self-sustaining for five years.”
“It’s also important that we demonstrate municipal leadership, and we have that through the support of the Mayor and a personal donation.”
The six awards, with their six sponsors, are as follows:
- Outstanding Emerging Artist, sponsored by Merit Realty Limited
- Outstanding Mid-Career Artist, sponsored by Betty and Bill Morris
- Outstanding Senior Artist, sponsored by BrandHealth
- Outstanding Achievement by an Indigenous Artist, sponsored by LLF Lawyers
- Arts Champion, sponsored by Ashburnham Realty
- Arts Catalyst, sponsored by Kate and Alex Ramsay
Appropriately enough, the physical awards are being created by letterpress artist and graphic designer Jeff Macklin of Jackson Creek Press.
“They are letterpress certificates,” Su says. “We felt that it was important to be presenting a work of art by an artist.”
In addition to the awards themselves, The Mayor’s Luncheon for the Arts is sponsored by Daryl Bennett: The Liftlock Group, Lett Architects, Basterfield and Associates Landscape Architects, Cherney Properties, and kawarthaNOW.com, with the Office of the Mayor, LLF Lawyers, Monkman Gracie & Johnston Insurance Brokers, BrandHealth and Engage Engineering Ltd. all as table sponsors. Public Energy Performing Arts is the charitable trustee for the Peterborough Arts Awards.
We asked Bill why he thinks it’s important to recognize artists and their contribution to the community.
“The arts are the most underestimated driver of economic development,” he says. “The arts are a huge driver in economic development. People come to our community to attend concerts, performances, to attend openings and studio tours — there is no doubt that the arts are a driver of development.
“Secondly, the value to our citizens is tangible. We enjoy our community more. Our lifestyle is enriched with support of arts and culture.”
The Mayor’s Luncheon for the Arts takes place from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Friday, May 25th at McDonnel St. Activity Centre (577 McDonnel St, Peterborough). Along with the awards presentation, the luncheon features guest speaker Wanda Nanibush, Curator of Indigenous Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
The event is sold out; if you want to be added to a waiting list, email firstname.lastname@example.org.