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Art Awards leaves lasting impact on Lac La Biche community

It's been a few weeks since the 2022 Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Art Awards took over Lac La Biche County in-conjunction with a week long art’s celebration, but the events have built many partnerships that will last say organizers.

It's been a few weeks since the 2022 Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Art Awards took over Lac La Biche County in-conjunction with a week long art’s celebration. And local organizers of the June 8-11 event say that not only were 14 award winners from across the province celebrated for their artistic contributions, but so was local artistic talent and small-town hospitality. 

The provincially-acclaimed event, hosted by Portage College, the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards Foundation and Lac La Biche County, has created an impact and memories that won’t be forgotten, said Carrie Froehler, the College’s vice president of People, Planning and Public Relations. 

Froehler, who is also a co-chair on the awards committee, says the relationships formed with both local groups, distinguished art professionals in the industry, award winners and the arts foundation, is a huge achievement for the community and the college’s artistic identity. 

Throughout the weekend, hundreds of out of town visitors and guests explored the Museum of Aboriginal Peoples' Art and Artifacts at the Portage campus. The museum, which features exhibits that have been collected for over 40 years, has been an artistic jewel in the community showcasing over 2,000 pieces, she said. The spotlight from the recent awards event will shine even more light on the museum, the local art scene and the community at large.  

“The spin off I think will be very eye-opening for all of us, because we've made connections that we would not necessarily have made…We’re madly, madly working behind the scenes on some of these connections and working to see how we can expand our collections and expand our space,” said Froehler.  

“For us to be able to showcase the museum provincially, the value of that is immeasurable.” 

New endowment 

While showcasing the community has been an honour, a milestone during the recent high-profile weekend was the addition of a new endowment fund to support students' artistic education, said Froehler. So far, the college is near its $25,000 goal. The funds include $3,000 that was recently contributed by the Art’s Foundation. 

“So we're very close to reaching our $25,000 document goal... but that doesn't mean we have to stop. We will continue to have different events and functions that do support that art, so that we can keep that legacy going on,” said Froehler. 

Supporting careers 

The foundation’s support of the college’s endowment fund is the most recent support offered to the province’s artistic community since the foundation began in 2003, says Kathy Classen, the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards Foundation’s Executive Director. 

A few months shy from the 20-year anniversary for the provincial foundation that has supported 23 distinguished artists who have made lifelong contributions in their fields and 74 emerging artists who are in the process of creating their legacies throughout the province, Classen says it’s important to celebrate those milestones. 

“For those emerging artists, it's a real leg up and a validation. A validation that yes, they're going in the right direction, that what they have to say is important,” she said, adding that 2021’s Distinguished Artists Faye Heavyshield, Cheryl Foggo and Vicki Adams Willis are great representatives of what a rich artistic legacy looks like. 

“Many of them are at a very advanced level and have made a significant contribution to the arts community in the province, both in terms of their art production, and also in terms of mentoring and teaching…and helping support upcoming artists.” 

The $1.4 million dollars awarded to all the recipients over the years has been collected through generous donors from across the province. Portions of the funds that go back to endowment funds and other artistic projects comes have also seen some provincial and federal grants. Classen say the foundation’s primary goal is to enhance all forms of art in the province.  

“Those endowed funds are to be available in perpetuity as how it was set up to continue to support art,” she said.  

All forms of art celebrated 

Over the years, the foundation has made efforts to expand creative categories to not only be inclusive to all ethnicities, and artistic forms but to also encourage every creative field to apply or be nominated, said Classen, adding that the variety was seen on the Lac La Biche stage. 

“You see it in the emerging artist awards, we had a fairly even balance of literary, visual performance and music awards, she said. “All of the decisions are based on excellence,” for the handful of jurors from The Banff Centre that select recipients annually. 

“They are not required at all to select an even number of performances versus literary or versus visual artists at all. We leave it up to the jury,” she said. 

“The metric is excellence, artistic excellence, and that's the thing to be considered. So we do keep it very intentionally broad and inclusive.” 

Combined ceremonies 

For the first time this year, recipients for both the Distinguished and Emerging Artists were held together. Traditionally the events are held biannually, but due to COVID-19 pandemic the opportunity to host both shows together was a huge success that will leave a lasting impression, said co-chair Froehler, adding that the Lac La Biche location was also the smallest community setting of any of the past award events. 

She said it was a process that took two years of planning by local and provincial organizers, and the end result was a big success for a small community. 

“We're still getting a lot of nice notes from people and thanking us for the hospitality and that's really meaningful when you hear that, at least they've gone home and they're still talking about us. When you're running an event, that's what you always like to hear; is that there are still positive thoughts coming back to you,” Froehler said, adding that an annual celebration of local art could continue on a community level.

“We’re very happy that the community came out and supported our events and enjoyed them…Our goal is to hopefully next year have that art weekend again where we showcase vendors, music and talent.” 


About the Author: Rahma Dalmar

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