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Ken Lum & Myfanwy MacLeod win Vancouver Arts Awards

Two of the artists named as winners of the Mayor’s Arts Awards in Vancouver today have changed the landscape of their city—literally.

Ken Lum, winner of the Mayor’s Arts Award for Public Art, was honoured for his work Monument for East Vancouver—a large white neon cross marking the area where he grew up. A hub for recent immigrants during his childhood, the neighbourhood is today reputed to be home to one of Canada’s poorest postal codes at the same time as it experiencing increasing gentrification pressures.

As Lum states on the Vancouver Public Art Registry website, “Monument For East Vancouver develops from a graffiti symbol that has circulated for several decades in East Vancouver. It is a symbol that has circulated in largely provisional terms. My idea was to formalize the symbol through scale and permanence.” He also states, “The sculpture faces westward towards downtown, towards the centre. It is an expression of hope and defiance.”

Just last week, it was announced that Lum would be one of the artists featured in the 2014 Whitney Biennial. Lum is currently director of the undergraduate fine arts program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design in Philadelphia. His other public works in Vancouver include Four Boats Stranded on the roof of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Myfanwy MacLeod, winner of the Mayor’s Arts Award for Visual Arts, is the creator of The Birds in Southeast False Creek Plaza, in which tiny house sparrows are blown up to 16 feet tall. Her work recently received a survey at Museum London which will travel to the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2014. She also included in the current exhibition “Carbon 14: Climate is Culture” at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Each winner gets to choose an emerging artist for related recognition in that category. Lum chose to recognize Rebecca Bayer, who is currently an artist in residence at the Hadden Park Field House in Kitsilano and who has, among other projects, created a barter kiosk in Burnaby. MacLeod chose Derek Brunen for recognition. Brunen’s work in art, cinema and popular culture has recently been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and Sils Project Space in Rotterdam.

Each of these four artists receives a $2,500 cash prize.

Improvements to the public realm also came to the fore in the Mayor’s Lifetime Achievement Award, which is going to landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander. Oberlander’s projects include the courtyard of the New York Times Building in New York City and the grounds of the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, as well as a community school in Inuvik.

Mayor Gregor Robertson will present the awards at a special ceremony on November 22 at Telus World of Science.

“This year’s Mayor’s Arts Awards honourees and emerging artists exemplify the tremendous depth and diversity of talent we have in Vancouver,” Robertson said in a release. “Our creative community bolsters our city’s cultural vitality and economic well-being, and support for local arts and culture is a top priority of our work at City Hall.”

On a per capita basis, the City of Vancouver has the highest number of artists and provides the most local grant funding for arts organizations of any major city in Canada.

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