If you has asked Suzanne Woolridge what she was up to at work, she would likely have given you a cheeky reply, her son Andrew says: “I’ve got my head up my arts!”
Woolridge, longtime CBC arts reporter and producer who passed away last January after a fight with ALS, was honoured Saturday night with an induction into the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council’s Hall of Honour during the organization’s arts awards gala.
This year’s event, the 27th annual, was held at the Joseph R. Smallwood Arts and Culture Centre in Gander.
“Suzanne was a loving, dedicated individual who supported the arts community over many years,” said Andrew, who accepted his mother’s award with his brother, Rob.
“She would have been elated to learn that this awards was given to her. 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 arts council handed out six awards during the gala, hosted by Pete Soucy with help from Gander’s Avion Players, Brian Way and the New Solitaires, and chanteuse Kim Wiseman. The event was themed as a homage to Gander’s aviation industry, the stage decked out as in the 1940s.
Filmmaker and actor Ruth Lawrence won the night’s top award, Artist of the Year. 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.
While accepting her award — which she insisted she wasn’t expecting, having only scribbled down some notes for a thank-you speech on a scrap of paper in her purse moments earlier — Lawrence’s mother, Burnsie Lawrence, could be heard in the audience, saying, “I’m so proud!”
“I was in some pretty formidable company,” Lawrence told The Telegram of fellow nominee Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland theatre company and visual artist Tina Dolter.
“Honestly, I was very shocked and surprised and so delighted.
“I studied away and I decided I wanted to come back here to live and this is the (arts) community I wanted to work in. I grew up admiring it and no sooner got back here then they embraced me and took me in as a part of that community so I feel like I have a lot to give back to them and to a lot of the younger artists who are coming up. To me, that’s what getting an honour like this is about, with it comes the responsibility to really pass on that experience, that support you’ve received.”
Corner Brook visual artist Jordan Bennett, 25, won the CBC Emerging Artist of the Year award, having made the shortlist two years in a row.
“It means a lot,” Bennett said. “It’s great to be recognized here in Newfoundland. My stuff has been shown right across Canada, but it seems like sometimes you get more recognized when you go away. It’s really nice when your peers look at you as an equal in the arts. It’s amazing.”
Musician/writer Christina Smith was presented with the Arts in Education 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 Inuit grass weaver Garmel Rich was also inducted into the Hall of Honour.
The winners each received a unique piece of artwork by Christine Koch; a hybrid of linocut and painting, based on her time spent doing climate change research in the Torngat Mountains. Some prizes also came with a $2,000 award.