Ruth Lawrence insists she had no idea she would be presented with the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council's top award Saturday night, and hadn't even considered writing a thank-you speech.
It's a good thing she decided to scribble a few notes on a scrap of paper in her handbag minutes before the winner was announced.
Lawrence beat out fellow nominees Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland theatre company and visual artist Tina Dolter for the award.
"I was in some pretty formidable company," Lawrence told The Telegram. "Honestly, I was very shocked and surprised and so delighted. When people say it's an honour it's a cliché but it's really true. It's astonishing.
"I'm really very very thankful to Sherry White, who nominated me and my friend and colleagues who supported that award. To think that someone took the time and thought that what I was doing was worth taking that time really means a lot to me."
Lawrence has performed more than 100 roles in professional theatre, film, TV and radio, most of them original productions. She is the co-founder of White Rooster Productions theatre company, has served as the executive director of the Nickel Independent Film Festival, and has produced numerous films, her most recent "Two Square Feet," starring Jeanne Beker.
The NLAC honoured the accomplishments of the province's artists with six awards, presented Saturday night at the Joseph R. Smallwood Arts and Culture Centre in Gander.
Musician/writer Christina Smith was presented with the Arts in Education Award, visual artist Jordan Bennett was given the CBC Emerging Artist Award, musician Doug Dunsmore won the Arts Achievement Award, and musician/volunteer Heather McKinnon was presented with the award for Patron of the Arts. Labrador grass weaver Garmel Rich was inducted into the arts council's hall of fame along with CBC arts reporter Suzanne Woolridge, who passed away after a lengthy illness earlier this year.
Woolridge's two sons, Rob and Andrew, accepted the recognition on behalf of their family.
"She would have been elated to learn that this award was given to her," Andrew said. "She would say, 'I'm making news, not history,' but tonight she made both, and for that, I thank-you and our family thanks you."
The winners each received a unique piece of artwork by Christine Koch; a hybrid of linocut and painting, based on her time spent in the Torngat Mountains doing climate change research. Winner of some of the awards also received a $2,000 cash prize.
This was the NLAC's 27th awards gala. Hosted by Pete Soucy with help from Brian Way and the New Solitaires, the Avian Players, and singer Kim Wiseman, the event was staged as a tribute to Gander's aviation history.
See Monday's Telegram for more on the arts awards gala.