2017 Jury Speech

Author and Spokesperson: Joanne Miller

I would like to acknowledge that we are in K’jipuktuk, traditional land of the Mi’kmaq and I am so honoured and excited to speak to you on behalf of the jury of the 2017 Masterworks Awards. 5 artists, all distinguished in their fields made up this years’ jury.  Our expertise ranged from visual art to music to film making and the performing arts.  The five members were: 

Theo Pitsavis, who is not only an exceptionally skilled actor, but is also one of the foremost theatre artists in this community, constantly innovating and offering up new and engaging ways to tell stories through his work with his company Lohifi productions.  

Jason Buxton, a film director and screenwriter, well known for his film Blackbird which has played all over the world and won multiple awards at the Toronto and Atlantic Film festivals. 

Francois Gaudet, an award winning photographer and painter who takes the fact of a photo and mixes it with the fiction of paint to create art that is both visually stunning and provocative.

Barbara Pritchard, who has been called one of the finest interpreters of contemporary keyboard music in the country.

I am Joanne Miller. I am an actress and a playwright and I also partake in the base art of stand up comedy twice a week at a bar near you.

I was the co creator and director of the Robert Merritt Theatre awards for 10 years.

I have an intimate understanding of awards.   

I know the emotions.  I know that it can be incredibly humbling, exciting and rewarding to be chosen for an award.  I know it can be devastating for an artist who is hoping to be chosen but is not acknowledged. I know the promotional value that awards can have, to bring an artist to the next level.  But the one thing I learned in my time running awards, is that awards are not about the artists.  

An artist must always keep their head down, in their work.  Rejection, praise, promotion, they all distract.  We’re used to it.  We concentrate through the good and the bad. The reward, for we artists, is being fully immersed in a state of creation, fully energized, fully focused.  Our reward is complete absorption, where our skill and passion take over and all lines between space and time and ourselves and our art are blurred.  We are one.  We are in flow. That is our reward.

But yet, I spent a good ten years, fighting for awards for artists.

Because they are important.  Awards are important for the community. 

They acknowledge the energy and the life force that the arts provide us.  They are important to me, not as an artist, but as someone who loves experiencing the creations of others, as the audience. They are the way we can tell artists that we saw, we heard, we felt your state of flow.  They are the way we can say to artists, your message was received.  Imagine if at the end of a performance you were not allowed to applaud.  Awards are the applause.

So I am very excited to tell you about the three nominated works that we felt best expressed this sense of flow and that we as a community now applaud:

The Deception of Livvy Higgs by Donna Morrissey

This novel masterfully weaves the narrative between the past and the present.  The jury found it immediately engaging and skillful in transporting us to Halifax in world war 2 to the French shore of Newfoundland and back to present day all the while laying in the puzzle pieces that make up the life of Livvy Higgs. 

Polyphonic Lively by Dinuk Wijeratne

This musical composition has a life force to it. The use of wind instruments and cross cultural influences add to its power and complexity. The jury was energized and inspired by the level of skill.  The result of this composition is expectedly cathartic.  

Werewolf by Ashley Mackenzie and Nelson MacDonald

A film about two addicts in small town, Cape Breton.  The film was shot with a unique guerilla camera style that brought the viewer deeper into the minds of the characters. The jury was impressed with the way these two young filmmakers transformed the obstacles in front of them and turned them all into opportunities, resulting in this captivating work.

Thank you so much for being here today to help acknowledge and celebrate the energy and excitement of these works.