Toronto, June 20, 2012 – Visual artist Shelley Niro is the first laureate of the new Ontario Arts Council Aboriginal Arts Award. The Ontario Arts Council (OAC) will present the $7,500 award to Niro at the Woodland Cultural Centre on August 11, 2012, during the Planet IndigenUS activities. The new annual award celebrates the work of Aboriginal artists and arts leaders who have made significant contributions to the arts in Ontario. It also recognizes the next generation of artists: each recipient is invited to nominate an Emerging Aboriginal Artist who in turn receives a $2,500 prize. Shelley Niro selected mixed media and visual artist Tracey Anthony as the 2012 Emerging Aboriginal Artist. Anthony is the founder of Vision Artworks at Six Nations of the Grand River territory / Mississaugas of The New Credit First Nation.
About Shelley Niro
- Shelley Niro is a member of the Turtle Clan of the Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk) Nation, from the Six Nations of the Grand River territory, near Brantford, Ont.
- She creates complex visual experiences in a variety of media, including beadwork, painting, photography and film. Her work has been exhibited widely, both nationally and internationally, and she has received considerable attention for her films.
- Niro is known for incisively challenging conventional, colonial representations of Aboriginality with directness and humour. She crafts and retells indigenous narratives by drawing on lived experienced as well as themes of identity, self-determination and liberation.
- Her short film The Shirt, was presented at the 2003 Venice Biennale and the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. In 2009, her first feature film, Kissed by Lightning, premiered at Toronto’s imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival and won the Santa Fe Film Festival’s 2009 Milagro Award for Best Indigenous Film.
- She is currently working on her second feature film, The Incredible 25th Year of Mitzi Bearclaw.
- Niro’s works of art can be found in the collections of numerous institutions, including the National Gallery of Canada; National Museum of the American Indian; Art Gallery of Ontario; Banff Art Centre; Canadian Museum of Civilization; McMichael Canadian Art Collection; Royal Ontario Museum; Thunder Bay Art Gallery; Woodland Cultural Centre, Castellani Art Museum and the Eiteljorg Museum, among others.
- Niro studied at the Banff School of Fine Arts, is a graduate of OCAD University and received her MFA from the University of Western Ontario.
The 2012 jurors unanimously selected Shelley Niro for the award, noting that “her work is radical and unrelenting. They are ruminations on war, on life, on being a Mohawk woman… on being an Aboriginal person in Canada. She tells stories in fundamentally Indigenous ways, with humour, generosity and a strong sense of knowledge transfer, and gives freely to her community.”
OAC Chair Martha Durdin noted, “Congratulations to Shelley on this well-deserved award. Shelley personifies the innovation and creativity of Ontario’s indigenous arts community. OAC is proud to be inaugurating an award that honours the vital contributions of Aboriginal artists and arts leaders to Ontario’s cultural landscape.”
About the Emerging Artist
- Tracey Anthony, the 2012 Emerging Aboriginal Artist, is a mixed media and visual artist whose work includes drawing, painting, printmaking, and other practices. He draws on his Delaware / Six Nations and Mississauga heritage, oral traditions and cultural stereotypes, Aboriginal mythology and symbolism as well as modern ideologies to explore concepts of identity and society. His work incorporates elements of the supernatural and the fantastic, and blurs the line between reality and imagination.
- Following studies at OCAD University, Anthony founded Vision Artworks in 1999 and is a featured artist in Four From Six, a show curated by Shelley Niro which will also be featured at the Planet IndigenUS activities at the Woodland Cultural Centre in August 2012.
- The Ontario Arts Council Aboriginal Arts Award is a $10,000 award program: $7,500 is awarded to the laureate, $2,500 to the Emerging Aboriginal Artist.
- OAC’s 2008-2013 Strategic Plan, Connections and Creativity, includes increasing investment and support to Aboriginal artists and arts organizations.
- Laureates and Emerging artists will be announced each June, to mark National Aboriginal History Month.
- Jurors for the 2012 award were: Christi Belcourt (Metis, Espanola); Cherie Dimaline (Metis Ojibway, Toronto); Chief Bryan LaForme (Ojibway, Hagersville); Steve Loft (Mohawk, Toronto); Patti Shaughnessy (Ojibway, Peterborough).
- Any Ontarian, Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal, can nominate an Aboriginal artist or Aboriginal arts leader for this award. Nomination forms for the 2013 award will be available in September 2012.
- Guidelines for the award are available here.
Geneviève Vallerand, Communications Coordinator,
Ontario Arts Council
1-800-387-0058, ext. 7434 firstname.lastname@example.org