No publisher in town has handed out more awards than the Ottawa Business Journal’s Michael Curran, which is why it was such a novel experience for him to be on the receiving end, for a change, at the Ottawa Arts Council’s annual awards presentation.
Only an hour prior, Curran had been hanging out with a group of young business leaders who will be getting a Forty Under 40 award from him in a couple of weeks. Now here he was, accepting the Business and the Arts Recognition Award on behalf of the OBJ, which was nominated by the AOE Arts Council.
“While many media outlets have moved away from their abilities and commitments to report on the arts across our region, the Ottawa Business Journal has done the exact opposite,” AOE Arts Council board president Lisa Cruickshank told the audience inside the Ottawa Art Gallery’s new multi-purpose room, the Alma Duncan Salon.
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The OBJ was recognized for its media sponsorship, as well as its arts and events coverage. It has been a supporter of the Artpreneur Ottawa Conference since 2013 and has been helping to link the business and arts communities. Curran was also a member of the AOE Arts Council board of directors for six years.
“We don’t think the arts and business are mutually exclusive,” Curran said during his acceptance speech. “We take a much broader role of our job as reporters, as journalists. Certainly, I think — while the arts are primarily to be appreciated for their contributions to our culture — we also need to realize that the arts are an important economic development opportunity for us here, as well.”
This year’s prestigious Victor Tolgesy Award, named in honour of the late Ottawa artist, went to Jon Bartlett, who is the founder of Kelp Music, a champion of local music in Ottawa, and director of MEGAPHONO, an organization that seeks to build the national capital’s music scene.
As the city’s biggest arts prize, the award recognizes the accomplishments of those who have contributed substantially to enriching cultural life in our city.
The exciting newness of the building hasn’t worn off yet at the Ottawa Art Gallery, which celebrated the grand opening of its expanded and enhanced space one month ago. Since that time, it has welcomed 20,000 visitors and has been written up in the New York Times as a place to visit in Ottawa.
“We now have the perfect space — a landmark, a destination — that finally reflects the artistic quality in this region,” OAG chief executive Alexandra Badzak told the room in her welcome remarks.
The ceremony, which was emceed by Michael Mancini, shone a light on artists at all stages of their careers. It also attracted donors, sponsors and artists. Regional vice-president Mike Belliveau was there on behalf of sponsors RBC and the RBC Foundation. As well, Colleen Hoey, a partner at Mann Lawyers, and Margo Sunter, COO of GGFL Chartered Professional Accountants, were there to hand out an award together.
Presenters also included Mayor Jim Watson, who gave a special shout-out to the Ottawa Arts Council’s longtime executive director Peter Honeywell for his largely unrecognized but influential role in the Ottawa Art Gallery Expansion and Arts Court Redevelopment project.
“He could write a book on effective lobbying,” the mayor joked.
Also taking to the stage were Arts Award committee chair Joanne Guillemette and Ottawa Arts Council board chair Julia Johnston, a real estate agent with RE/MAX. The awards program, which was launched 30 years ago, has recognized 191 artists and arts supporters over the years and has awarded more than $300,000, Johnston told the crowd. Chosen artists are at all stages of their careers and in a variety of disciplines, including visual arts, theatre, music, dance, film and written and spoken word.
Musician Justin Duhaime received the RBC Emerging Artist Award while filmmaker Pixie Cram landed the Mid-Career Artist Award. The winner of the young artist award was Gwyneth Orr.
The event saw funding to promote and foster photographic excellence go to artist Neeko Paluzzi, while subDevision, a live theatre event that takes place in unconventional spaces in a massive party-like atmosphere, got support from an endowment fund that supports the evolution and creativity of new initiatives.