Presented by Arts Nova Scotia and the Creative Nova Scotia Leadership Council, these annual awards celebrate excellence in artistic achievement from artists across the province. The most notable award, the Portia White Prize, recognizes cultural and artistic excellence by an artist who has attained professional status, mastery and recognition in their discipline. The recipient of the award receives $18,000 and the remaining $7,000 is awarded their chosen protégé.
Other awards include the Prix Grand Pré, the Established Artist Awards, the Emerging Artist Awards, the Indigenous Artist Recognition Award, the Creative Community Impact Award, and the Black Artist Recognition Award.
Collectively, the awards are worth $75,000.
Portia White Prize
Catherine Martin is a member of the Millbrook Mi’kmaw Community, Truro, NS. She is an independent international award winning film producer and director, a writer, facilitator, communications consultant, community activist, teacher, drummer, and the first Mi’kmaw woman filmmaker from the Atlantic region. She is a past Chair of APTN and served on the board for the first five years of its inception. She has contributed to policy and institutional change to make cultural and arts more accessible to First Nations artists. Her contributions to film, television and digital media in Atlantic Canada were recognized with a WAVE Award from Women in Film and Television Atlantic. She was honoured with a National Peace Award from VOW (Voices of Women) in November 2016 for her years of work as a peace activist. Catherine has contributed to the development of many programs to advance the education of Mi’kmaq and Aboriginal women and youth in the Atlantic Region and across the country. From 2015 to 2019 Catherine was appointed as the 14th Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University. Catherine is a board of governor for Kings College School of Journalism. She was awarded the Senate 150 medal and the Order of Canada 2017. She is now the first Director of Indigenous Community Relations at Dalhousie University.
Natalie Gloade is the daughter of the late Mi’kmaq Activist/ Warrior Madeline (Nora) Bernard, who was murdered in 2007, and who won the largest class action lawsuits in Canadian History for her fellow Shubenacadie Indian Residential School Survivors. While she was doing her master's degree in LifeLong Learners, Natalie did a healing session about Forgiveness/Healing at her late mother’s home. This inspired her to create a space for art and healing at her mother’ s home and carry-on Nora’s inspiration and spirit in her community.
Indigenous Artist Recognition Award
Award winning author and Interdisciplinary artist Michelle Sylliboy (Mi’kmaq/L’nu) was born in Boston, Massachusetts and raised on her traditional L'nuk territory in We'koqmaq, Cape Breton. While living on the traditional, unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, Sylliboy completed a BFA at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, and a Masters in Education from Simon Fraser University. She is currently a PhD candidate in Simon Fraser University’s Philosophy of Education program, where she is working to reclaim her original written komqwej’wikasikl language. Her collection of photography and L’nuk hieroglyphic poetry, Kiskajeyi—I Am Ready, was published by Rebel Mountain Press in 2019 now available as an ebook. She was recently appointed at St FX University as new tenure track faculty in Education, Modern Language and Fine Arts departments.
Black Artist Recognition Award
Shauntay Grant is a poet, playwright, author, and multimedia artist. She is a descendant of Black Loyalists, Jamaican Maroons, and Black Refugees who came to Canada during the 18th and 19th centuries. A multidisciplinary artist with professional degrees in creative writing, music, and journalism, she “creates artworks that are engaging and accessible, but also challenging, rigorous, and informed by deep research (The Royal Society of Canada).” Her honours include a Joseph S. Stauffer Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts, a Robert Merritt Award for her stage play The Bridge, a Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award for Africville, and a Poet of Honour prize from the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. A member of The Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists, she teaches creative writing at Dalhousie University, shares her blend of words and music internationally at festivals and events, and collaborates with visual artists and art galleries to create multidisciplinary artworks, installations, and exhibitions. She curated the exhibition Stitched Stories: The Family Quilts (Dalhousie Art Gallery, 2016), and the multimedia installation Grandmother, Teach Me (Art Gallery Of Ontario, 2017). Her literary work has been commissioned by Symphony Nova Scotia, Eastern Front Theatre, Against The Grain Theatre, and Obdisian Theatre among others. A former poet laureate for the City of Halifax, her poetry for children and adults has been published in educational resources, anthologies and literary journals. Her forthcoming poetic picture book My Fade Is Fresh will be published in 2022 by Penguin Books.
Social Media: https://www.facebook.com/shauntay.grant/
Established Artist Recognition Award
Zeqirja Rexhepi (Zecha), an Albanian-born Canadian artist from Nova Scotia, continues to celebrate a superbly dimensional art career. Determined, adaptive, empathic, and transformational are reoccurring attributes of the years of Zecha’s experience and body of work.
Professionally, Zecha was the chief textile designer for Europe's second largest textile mill. He widely exhibited his paintings in Kosova and abroad specialising as a muralist to create frescoes for churches and mosques.
Zecha found himself in a distant Canada after the 1999 war in Kosovo had reached its climatic NATO intervention, away from Kosovo with a new language and relatively unknown to most of Nova Scotia's citizens as a personality but even more importantly as a Kosovar Albanian. He started his newfound life as he had left off in the one in Kosovo; with art, theater, music, films and teaching.
Zecha communicated through art from day one, which he created to show gratitude to the people of Canada and their warm welcome for his and other Albanian families. This gratitude turned into a voice very quickly, where he embarked on a voluntary mission to connect the Canadian and Albanian community through what he knows best, culture and art and has been hailed as a people’s ambassador.
Taking a page from the book of life has certainly created striking visuals on many canvases, walls, and other surface mediums. From deep, somberly emotive palettes with creatures and things, to bright colourful worlds of inspirational whims, Zecha is a modest master who enjoys the simple Nova Scotian way of life.
Emerging Artist Recognition Awards
Carrie Allison is a nêhiýaw/cree, Métis, and mixed European descent multidisciplinary visual artist based in K’jipuktuk, Mi’kma’ki (Halifax, Nova Scotia). She grew up on the unceded and unsurrendered lands of the Sḵwx̱ wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓ əm (Musqueam) Nations. Her maternal roots and relations are based in maskotewisipiy (High Prairie, Alberta), Treaty 8. Carrie’s practice responds to her maternal nêhiýaw/Cree and Métis ancestry, thinking through intergenerational cultural loss and acts of reclaiming, resilience, resistance, and activism, while also thinking through notions of allyship, kinship and visiting. Her practice is rooted in research and pedagogical discourses. Allison's work seeks to reclaim, remember, recreate and celebrate her ancestry through visual discussions often utilizing beading, embroidery, handmade paper, watercolour, websites, QR codes, audio, video and most recently animation. Old and new technologies are combined to tell stories of the land, continuance, growth, and of healing. Allison holds a Master in Fine Art, a Bachelor in Art History, and a Bachelor in Fine Art from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. Allison was the 2020 recipient of the Melissa Levin Award from the Textile Museum of Canada and was long listed for the 2021 Sobey Art Award. Her work has been shown in Canadian Art, Elle Quebec, Esse and Visual Arts News.
India Gailey (she/they) is a musician—cellist, composer, vocalist, and improviser––who crosses many eras and genres, most often performing the realms of classical and experimental music. Pinned as a “young musician to watch” (Scotia Festival), she has performed across Canada, the United States, and Germany as a soloist and collaborator. She has worked with numerous contemporary composers, including Yaz Lancaster, Philip Glass, Nicole Lizée, and Michael Harrison. India is the recipient of several honours, including awards from the Nova Scotia Talent Trust, the Canada Council for the Arts, and McGill University, where she earned her Master of Music in cello performance. Her most recent work has been presented by organizations such as the Canadian Music Centre, International Contemporary Ensemble, Metropolis Ensemble, and Government House of Nova Scotia. India is also member of the environmental quartet New Hermitage, which recently released their fifth album, Unearth, to critical acclaim. 2022 will bring the release of a new solo cello album, as well as a series of commissioned works written especially for India by Canadian composers.
Dawn Shepherd is a contemporary circus artist, director, trainer and rigger who received her circus arts education primarily through the National Circus School of Montreal (NCS), where she worked as an elite circus trainer from 2009-2013. In 2014, Dawn returned to NS to explore directing by starting small and creating her own shows. Since 2014, Dawn and long-time partner, Ryan Gray, have performed in and produced 5 feature-length contemporary circus shows (i.e. TU Processed, Nascent, Rogue, Breaking Valentines and That Which Lights Your Way: Reflection) and in October 2021 they shared their latest production, “Skywhispers of Terrestrial Dreams” as a work-in-progress at Nocturne Festival. Dawn is both dancer and co-producer on the Rebecca Lazier/Janet Echelman National Creation Fund project, “Everywhere the Edges” with Co-producer Mocean Dance and commissioning presenter, Live Art Dance.
In 2020, Dawn co-directed her first documentary, “Artist in the Black” and her first “circus on film” piece, “Dualing Roots”. The films have screened at the Mosaic Film Festival of Arts and Culture 2020, the Huntington Beach Cultural Cinema Showcase 2021, the Montreal Independent Film Festival 2021 and the NAFCo Winter Film Festival 2021. For her film “Dualing Roots”, Dawn was awarded “Best Stage Performance” at the NAFCo Winter Film Festival 2021 and the “Inspirational Griot Award at the Emerging Lens Film Festival 2021. Dawn is one of a few professional circus artists of African descent in NS. She is actively working to increase representation within the arts by mentoring emerging artists from underrepresented groups (i.e. IBPOC).
francesca ekwuyasi is a writer and multidisciplinary artist from Lagos, Nigeria. Her work explores themes of faith, family, queerness, consumption, loneliness, and belonging.
francesca's debut novel, Butter Honey Pig Bread was longlisted for the 2020 Giller Prize, a finalist for CBC's 2021 Canada Reads competition, the 2021 Lambda Literary Award, the 2021 Governor General's Award, the 2021 Amazon Canada First Novel Award, and the 2021 ReLit Award.
Creative Community Impact Award
Wonder'neath Art Society
Wonder’neath Art Society is an artist-led organization based in Kjipuktuk/Halifax that brings professional artists and local residents together in dynamic art exploration. Wonder’neath provides affordable studio space that creates a collaborative context for practising artists, while simultaneously exploring reciprocity between artists and their communities. Wonder’neath encourages and promotes art as a tool for expression, connection and social transformation through neighbourhood-based arts programming where the public can gather and make art, prioritizing ongoing outreach to communities facing barrier to arts access.
In the fall of 2020, Wonder’neath developed a purpose-built art facility in collaboration with artist Emily Falencki. Located in North End Halifax, Wonder’neath manages half of this 10,000 square foot building dedicated to providing long term, barrier-free studio space for a wide variety of visual artists and arts programming, creating greater access to the arts for our broader community, and continuing to highlight the critical role of hands-on studio space in artistic development.
Throughout the Pandemic, Wonder’neath continued to adapt and run its core programs: Open Studio, a twice weekly, free, intergenerational art-making program, Art Bikers, a mobile community engaged art program, and the Studio Artist Program, which has supported over 30 artists over the past 8 year with affordable studio rental and informal mentoring support, and adapted several partnership programs prioritizing vulnerable populations. Through creative partnerships, programming and collaborative projects Wonder’neath explores ways of integrating professional arts with community, sharing its learnings with other organizations locally, regionally, and nationally.
Prix Grand Pré
Productions pour le peuple
Productions pour le peuple is an independent music production company based out of the Baie Sainte-Marie region Nova Scotia (also known as the French Shore). Headed by co-presidents Jacques Blinn, Guyaume Boulianne and Éric Dow, they have organized countless cultural projects in the province and abroad for audiences of all types and backgrounds. Their music has allowed them to travel across Canada, France and the United States. They are often solicited as house musicians for various events and promote Nova Scotia's Acadian culture wherever they go. They also offer artistic workshops in schools focused on promoting cultural and linguistic security, mostly within the Atlantic province's French Acadian communities.
At Pour le Peuple, our mission is to channel the energy of an entire network of creators to help them bring their artistic vision into the world. Pour le Peuple inc. is a musical and artistic services company managed by and for artists. Composed of a versatile team that has been working in the industry for nearly 10 years, Pour le peuple offers a wide range of à la carte services for its clients, covering all stages of the artistic creation process. Want to apply for a grant for your new music project? Record an album and release it to the world? Organize a show that needs artistic direction? Shoot a music video? Pour le Peuple has solutions. In short, Pour le Peuple focuses its efforts on the production and marketing of distinct cultural projects, while advocating for the promotion of current and diversified musical styles.