In spring 2016, the AFA began accepting community nominations to identify 25 Influential Alberta Artists from the past 25 years who have significantly impacted their communities, influenced the development of art and artistic practice in our province, and inspired others to do the same.
Hundreds of nominations poured in.The sheer number and quality of nominations we received illustrated the depth and wealth of talent our province contains. So the selection process wasn’t an easy one. At all. However, guided by values of inclusivity and diversity of community representation the AFA selected 25 artists who have built artistic practices that influence and inspire. Each of these artists will receive an extended profile in the news feed of the AFA’s website, published weekly starting in November.
Moreover, each artist will select a protégé or emerging artist who will receive an AFA Young Artist Prize, worth $2,500 each. These young artists will receive their awards in 2017 and be revealed weekly in each Influential Artist’s extended profile. Through the AFA Young Artist Prizes, our hope is for our Influential Alberta Artists to help guide the AFA to build relationships with the next generation of artists who will lead us and the arts community through the next 25 years and beyond.
The AFA 25 Influential Alberta Artists are:
Visual Artist - The grandfather of 20th century Indigenous art in Alberta, Alex has built an international reputation as a painter, muralist and printmaker. He has also mentored generations of artists and advocates tirelessly for recognition of Indigenous arts.
Poet -A prolific, award-winning poet, founder of the Edmonton Poetry Festival, and the City of Edmonton’s first Poet Laureate, Alice not only inspires other writers through her writing but also taught, mentored, and volunteered on behalf of literary and arts organizations.
Aritha van Herk
Writer - An award-winning novelist, anthologist, essayist, commentator, and professor, Aritha wrote a transformative narrative history of our province – Mavericks, An Incorrigible History of Alberta – the inspiration and basis for a permanent exhibition at Calgary’s Glenbow Museum.
Citadel Theatre - The first Albertan, longest-serving, and arguably most successful Artistic Director of one of North America’s largest not-for-profit theatres, The Citadel Theatre, Bob did it all with a focus on growing and casting local talent, and creating learning opportunities for emerging artists.
Visual Artist - Widely praised internationally as one of Canada’s most notable painters, the first Albertan ever to have a retrospective of his work in the National Gallery of Canada, Chris continues to return from his travels to live, teach, and mentor emerging artists in Calgary.
Hoop Dancer and Musician - A master and three-time World Champion Hoop Dancer, as well as native flute player and motivational speaker, Dallas has traveled locally and internationally sharing and educating people about Indigenous traditions, history, and culture.
Writer-Performer - A multiple award-winning writer, performer, director, composer, teacher, activist, and Drag Artiste – and the first “out-of-the-closet” host of a national television series – Darrin has been on the forefront of sharing, celebrating, educating and advocating for LGBTQ culture for more than thirty years.
Dr. France Levasseur-Ouimet
Songwriter and Playwright - A prolific musician, having written award-winning songs for film, theatre, and ceremonial events, as well as more than thirty play scripts – in many of which she has performed or directed – France is a pioneer for the Francophonie in Alberta and an educator and advocate for Franco-Albertan culture.
Filmmaker - A leading Canadian independent filmmaker, having directed highly acclaimed feature-length films like The Suburbanators and the cult-classic waydowntown, Gary continues to create cinematic stories inspired by and based on his hometown, Calgary.
Choreographer-Performer - Multiple award-winning Artistic Director of Mile Zero Dance, and widely considered one of the most innovative contemporary dance artists in Edmonton, Gerry is dedicated to encouraging artists and audiences from different disciplines and communities to share and learn from one another.
Filmmaker - As an internationally-renowned filmmaker, Gil built a body of work that describes and promotes a wider understanding of the difficult issues facing Indigenous peoples, Gil wrote, directed, and produced seminal films throughout his career, including Foster Child, Big Bear, Indian Summer: The Oka Crisis, as well as having written the pilot for the CBC series Blackstone.
Dr. Joane Cardinal-Schubert
Visual Artist - An acclaimed and internationally recognized multi-media, visual, and installation artist, a writer, lecturer, free-lance curator, a mentor and a director of film and theatre, Joane was also a passionate advocate for Indigenous art as she inspired and enabled artists to challenge and reclaim their creative identities.
Visual Artist - Renowned sculptor, printmaker, educator, mentor and one of the first artists to create abstract sculpture in Alberta, Katie has complimented her innovative art practice by instructing at the Alberta College of Art and Design for over 40 years, and continues to create space for Alberta artists to learn, practice, and exhibit their work.
Musician-Producer - A mainstay indie folk artist in his own right, Lorrie’s dedication to developing the Calgary music scene is unrivalled. He has produced award-nominated albums by the likes of Rae Spoon, Samantha Savage Smith, Reuben and the Dark, and Jay Crocker, while also supporting and celebrating emerging artists for more than 20 years.
Theatre and Movement Artist/Educator - With a background in dance, movement, and theatre, and a passion for nurturing the creative impulse in young people, Lynda has devoted her considerable artistic talents over the last decade towards teaching, encouraging, programming, and creating performing arts experiences for rural audiences in Red Deer and Central Alberta.
Novelist and Playwright - With a wicked sense of humour throughout his catalogue of award-winning plays and Young Adult novels, and his unique ability to craft a viral tweet, Marty is a tireless proponent for youth literacy and creative writing – travelling to schools, libraries, and community centres across the province to talk with and read to children.
Narcisse Blood and Michael Green
Co-founders Making Treaty 7 Cultural Society - While both of these innovative artists have been remarkably influential in their own right, we recognize Narcisse and Michael’s ground-breaking partnership to create Making Treaty 7 in order to give voice, share, and promote greater understanding of our shared history.
Performer - A classically trained Soprano who has toured and performed internationally, Michelle has devoted her career to developing performance and educational opportunities for local emerging artists, and growing new audiences for opera in Calgary.
Artistic Director/Ballet Master, Cheremosh Ukrainian Dance Company - Having emigrated specifically to have greater influence on evolving the form of Ukrainian folk dance, Mykola has since educated and delighted audiences with his intricate choreography, taught hundreds of students, and has brought international recognition of the Ukrainian dance community in Alberta.
Drum and Singing Ensemble - They’ve garnered multi-Grammy nominations, multi-Juno nominations, and have been awarded multi-Native American Music Awards and Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards. Northern Cree is considered one of the most respected and influential pow-wow groups in North America, and yet remain role models for many Indigenous communities through their commitment to family.
Novelist - A two-time winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award, and an officer of the Order of Canada, and a long-time professor at the University of Alberta, Rudy is regarded as the founder of a new era of Mennonite literature, and a champion of Prairie literary culture.
Media Artist - An innovative, award-winning media artist and activist whose driving impetus is to engage community with her art, Sharon’s practice is intertwined with her activism for feminism, social justice, and equality, and her dedication for providing resources and mentorship opportunities for emerging artists.
Jazz Musician - With a career that has spanned 60 years as a pianist, conductor, arranger, composer, TV personality, actor, producer, and Canadian Senator, Tommy has been a passionate advocate for the arts, and established and supported numerous organizations designed to support and fund local artists throughout their careers. At 78, he is still touring Alberta today.
Filmmaker and Musician - Writing, directing and producing, award-winning short films that have screened at prestigious international festivals like the Sundance Film Festival, Trevor remains embedded to Edmonton’s film community through his work with the Film and Video Arts Society of Alberta, while simultaneously playing in one of the hottest indie rock bands in the country, The Wet Secrets .
Vicki Adams Willis
Choreographer-Teacher- The founder of Decidedly Jazz Danceworks and a legacy of teaching and mentoring hundreds of emerging artists, Vicki developed a culturally unique, critically acclaimed style of Jazz dance, which has attracted artists and audiences from around the world to learn it, and enjoy it.