The TRIAS Art Prize is really putting the “art” in The Ottawa Hospital’s new state-of-the-art campus.
The first-time awards ceremony was held at the Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) on Tuesday, handing out $40,000 worth of prizes to artists whose work will hang in public spaces of the future hospital campus.
The new awards program, which is part of a city-building initiative called Creative Wellbeing, recognizes the power of art in health care.
“It’s the first of its kind in Ottawa,” said OAG director and CEO Alexandra Badzak as she welcomed guests to the Alma Duncan Salon.
The room heard how hospital donor and volunteer Jennifer Toby has been a driving force behind it all. She’s provided most of the funding for the art competition, with the support of her husband, Dr. François Auclair, an infectious disease specialist at The Ottawa Hospital.
“Art in hospital is not just about pretty pictures on the wall,” said Toby during her remarks at the podium. “Art in hospital addresses the humanity that is at the core of health care.”
In late 2019, the OAG, The Ottawa Hospital and the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra signed a unique memorandum of understanding to work together, as leading civic institutions, to incorporate art into The Ottawa Hospital for the benefit of patients, staff and visitors.
“As part of this iterative journey, we decided to create a new art prize program,” said Badzak. “The TRIAS Art Prize is a juried art competition that intersects art and science, medicine and community.”
Attendees included Dr. Duncan Stewart, CEO and scientific director of The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. OAG board member Jane Clark attended with new board member Maureen Cunningham, a strategic team coach and executive advisor. Spotted from the art business community was Carrie Colton, gallery principal at Studio Sixty Six.
The competition attracted more than 130 submissions. Its Art As Healing prize, worth $10,000, was won by local contemporary artist Andrew Morrow, who’s known for his large densely textured figurative works. His painting, Neither Brightly Lit Nor Completely Enlightened, captures the shared experience of isolation during the pandemic.
Morrow is hoping the painting touches the public in some way. The Ottawa Hospital “is a great home for it,” he told OBJ.social.
The honourable mention, worth $5,000, was awarded to Jovita Akahome for Soul, an acrylic on stretch canvas.
Nunavut artist Koomuatuk (Kuzy) Curley, a sculptor, director and videographer, was the winner of the Indigenous and Inuit Healing prize for his sculpture, Sikusilingmiut, made of hand-quarried northern stone from the Kinngait (Cape Dorset) area.
The honourable mention went to emerging Anishinaabe quillwork artist Christine Toulouse, from Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation, for her work, Courage. Her prize, worth $5,000, was supported by The Lawson Foundation.
It’s common for residents of Nunavut to travel down to Ottawa for medical treatment. “The artwork is a way for them to have a connection to their home communities,” said Toby.
Local artist Svetlana Swinimer won the $10,000 Art and Science Residency prize that pairs a selected artist with a hospital researcher or clinical practitioner in order to create an artwork that explores a field of research. She will be working with Dr. Michael Schlossmacher. He’s devoted his research career to improving the lives of individuals with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease.
The winning works of art will remain on display at either the current Civic or General campus until the construction of the new campus is finished in 2028. The new campus on Carling Avenue, near Dows Lake, will make The Ottawa Hospital one of the largest and most advanced medical centres in Canada.
Jennifer Van Noort, vice president of philanthropy and leadership giving at The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, spoke about how “every minute of our team’s day” is spent “dreaming and focusing on building a spectacular new hospital campus”.
“It’s going to be incredible. In fact, we say it’s going to be the most technologically advanced hospital in the country when it’s done.”
As part of those plans, she added, art will play an important role in helping patients, families and staff to heal. “Please know how excited we’ve been to be part of that journey.”
Research has shown that including and integrating art in the healing setting is beneficial, can help reduce stress and encourage a faster recovery. It also has a humanizing effect on patients, their families and staff.
Providing musical entertainment was Amy-Lynn Howson, who works as a nurse at The Ottawa Hospital. She famously helped to comfort patients in ICU during the COVID pandemic by playing her guitar and singing (through a mask) in close enough proximity for them to hear. She’s affectionately known as “the singing nurse” at the hospital.
“How lovely that not only is tonight about the intersection of arts and wellness but also about music and wellness and all the different forms that art takes,” said Van Noort. “We just continue to drive forward and figure out what that means, what’s the art of the possible.”