Penny is an accomplished performer, having toured nationally and internationally both as a dancer and as an actor performing in principal roles. She also has extensive experience in choreography, direction and production. Recent choreography highlights include Misdemeanor Dream (in collaboration with Spiderwoman Theater at LaMama, New York, N.Y., 2022), The Unnatural and Accidental Woman (co-production by the National Arts Centre English Theatre and Indigenous Theatre, Ottawa, 2019), The Serpent People (presented at The Citadel, Toronto, 2017), Material Witness (in collaboration with Spiderwoman Theater at LaMama, New York, N.Y., 2016), and When Will You Rage? (for Planet IndigenUS, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, 2015).
Penny trained as a dancer and instructor at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre and earned an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Aboriginal studies and drama from the University of Toronto. From 1998 to 2003, she participated in the Aboriginal Dance Project at the Banff Centre for the Arts as a student, choreographer and teacher.
Over the past 20 years, Penny has guest-taught at schools throughout Canada and the United States – including at the Centre for Indigenous Theatre, where she has been a faculty member and choreographer since 1998. From 2002 to 2010, she was also co-director of Earth in Motion, which produced seven Aboriginal choreographers’ workshops in Toronto.
In 2016, Penny received the K.M. Hunter Artist Award for Dance – recognizing an Ontario artist for their original artistic voice within an artistic tradition.
The assessors were unanimous in choosing Penny Couchie as the 2023 laureate. As they stated, “Throughout her career, Penny has nurtured deep, long-lasting and rich partnerships which have benefited the Indigenous community in both Nipissing and Toronto. She is an inspirational leader and artist, whose grounded approach to dance and creation centres community in all her projects.”
EMERGING ARTIST LAUREATE
The Ontario Arts Council Indigenous Arts Award also honours emerging arts leadership: each year, the award recipient is invited to nominate a rising Indigenous artist or arts leader to receive a $2,500 prize. Penny has selected multidisciplinary and land artist Paige Linklater-Wong as this year’s emerging laureate.
ABOUT PAIGE LINKLATER-WONG
Paige Linklater-Wong is a member of Attawapiskat First Nation and Waskaganish First Nation. She grew up in Moosonee, Ontario, and now resides in North Bay.
Paige’s arts practice explores relationships with the land, water, animals and Indigenous folklore. This includes her work as part of the Mushkegowuk Arts Collective, which helps raise awareness of the importance of the James Bay wetlands.
Paige has contributed to several Aanmitaagzi stage performances, including by co-authoring stories and scripts, and assisting in the creation of set pieces.
Paige earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Nipissing University, majoring in Native studies and minoring in fine arts. She then received a Masters of Environmental Studies at Nipissing University in 2022. Paige is also a proud mother to two children.
Birch Woman by Paige Linklater-Wong
ABOUT THE AWARD