For many new artists and writers, receiving an Arts and Letters Award is not only an honour, but motivation.
Even for those who are accustomed to earning praise and prizes for their work, the award is something special.
The 2013 Arts and Letters Awards were handed out by the provincial government during a ceremony at The Rooms Saturday evening, in categories of literary arts (poetry, short fiction, non-fictional prose, dramatic script, French writing, first novel), music, visual arts and digital multi-media.
A total of 73 awards were presented in senior and junior categories by Tourism, Culture and Recreation Minister Terry French, and Paul Butler, chairman of the Arts and Letters committee.
“It means everything. It is an absolute honour. It is validating, in a really significant way, to be recognized and appreciated,” said St. John’s photographer Malin Enstrom, who won an award for her archival print, “Weightless.” The photo was inspired, she said, by the joys of childhood in the summer.
“(It’s about) being weightless in the water, but also in spirit when it’s summer vacation and there are no weights of responsibility like school or homework,” Enstrom explained. “It is so beautiful to see the world through the eyes of our children and this piece is a glimpse into that joy and that energy.”
Dara Barrett, a relatively new writer, won her second Arts and Letters award, in the poetry category, for a piece called, “After the Funeral.” The poem is based on her own experiences as a teenager, after her grandfather’s death.
“In it, while I mourn the past and the moments that passed unmarked by appropriate celebration, the poem reveals an epiphany that illustrates how important even our unmarked days are — the moments between the memories being as valuable as that we seek to memorialize.”
Both Barrett and Enstrom spoke of the generosity of the awards, which came with a $1,000 prize (prizes in the junior division came with $250).
Aimed at stimulating creative talent in the province, the Arts and Letters Awards, first presented in 1952, are open to residents of Newfoundland and Labrador. Past winners include David Blackwood, Christopher Pratt, Cassie Brown, Kevin Major, Helen Porter and Michael Winter.
Submissions are judged blindly by independent adjudicators, with the author/artist’s name withheld (or covered, in the case of signed visual art). A written critique is provided to each entrant.
“I love that the contest is blind judged, because it means your story won on its own merit,” said writer Chad Pelley, who received his 10th award recognizing his work. “Having this (story) win and Arts and Letters gave it a stamp of approval to include it in the collection of shorts I am putting together this month.”
A full list of 2013 Arts and Letters Award winners will be posted on the provincial government’s website in the coming days. Winning work from the visual arts categories, along with selected other entries, are being shown at The Rooms until May 26.
Editor's note: our story was based on information provided in advance of the event by the provincial government, but in the end it was Mount Pearl South MHA Paul Lane who attended the Arts and Letters ceremony on behalf of the government, and not Tourism, Culture and Recreation Minister Terry French.