Vancouver curator and grunt gallery program director Glenn Alteen and local photographer and Emily Carr University of Art + Design instructor Sandra Semchuk have just been named 2018 Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts winners.
The Canada Council for the Arts announced the awards, which are chosen by artists' peers and which carry a $25,000 cash prize, today.
Alteen earned the outstanding contribution award. In 1984 he cofounded the artist-run grunt, a gallery that expresses diverse Canadian cultural identity and continues to offer exhibitions, performances, artist talks, publications, and other special projects in the community.
He's also a cofounder of the LIVE Performance Art Bienniale, and has written extensively on art and performance, including in publications like Unceded Territories Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun (MOA 2016). Alteen has also taken part in several archival website projects, including grunt's Medicine (2008) and Beat Nation (2009), and Ruins in Process -Vancouver Art in the 60s through the Belkin Gallery at UBC (2009). Other work includes cocurating the 2013 Queer Arts Festival visual arts exhibition TransgressionNow with artist Paul Wong and producing 2015's 53-minute documentary Mainstreeters (created by Michael Turner and Allison Collins). He and the grunt have also been major forces in saving and establishing the Blue Cabin Floating Artist Residency.
His nominator, curator, artist, and writer Lorna Brown, said in the press statement today: "Glenn Alteen has spent his career building a community through the consistent, respectful and ethical inclusion of artists, curators and cultural workers from diverse backgrounds. He has insisted on establishing – in grunt gallery – an artist-run centre that is more about artists than objects.”
Saskatchewan-born Sandra Semchuk is a Ukrainian Canadian photographer and video artist who helped cofound the artist-run Photographers Gallery in Saskatoon. For 15 years, she worked in collaboration with her late husband, James Nicholas, a Rock Cree actor and orator, looking at the indigenous and nonindigenous and identity, and the autobiographical and familial.
Semchuk has a book of photographs and stories about the internment of Ukrainians in Canada: The Stories Were Not Told, Canada’s WW I Internment Camps coming out this year (University of Alberta Press). She has exhibited her work at venues like Presentation House (which held a 25-year retrospective of her work called How Far Back is Home ... in 1998), the Belkin Gallery, the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Of Semchuk, her nominator, curator Andrea Kunard, said Semchuk’s "take on photography as collaborative project is a vital contribution to the medium--not as an imposition of a will but as a way of working towards an understanding of a problem. She asks the viewer to enter that process of self-examination with her.”
Another nominator, local artist Althea Thauberger, said, “Sandra Semchuk’s work reminds us of the necessity to continually rethink our positions as artists, as speaking subjects, as listeners.”
Other award winners include Toronto visual artist Bruce Eves, London media artist Wyn Geleynse, Toronto visual artist Spring Hurlbut, Toronto media artist Midi Onodera, Alberta Siksika (Blackfoot) Nation visual and performance artist Adrian Stimson, and Regina ceramics artist Jack Sures.
All winners will receive their prizes officially in a ceremony on March 28 at Rideau Hall, where Governor General Julie Payette will hand out the medallions.
The next evening, the National Gallery of Canada opens an exhibition featuring selected works by this year's winners.