The winners of the Mayor's Celebration of the Arts Gala are:
• Lifetime Achievement Award – Michael Lazar
• Youth Artist – Luc Tellier
• Excellence in Arts Teaching – Dixie Orriss
• Emerging Artist – Daniel Evans
• Established Artist – Peg McPherson
• Community Arts Group – St. Albert Cultivates the Arts Society
• Arts Leadership – Carol Watamaniuk
The final tally is in for the fourth annual Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts with St. Albert visual artists scooping up nearly half the trophies.
As a public event, the three-hour celebration held at the Arden Theatre last Friday combined a dash of glamour with an intimate, homespun quality that only a carefully calibrated community event can produce.
A pre-show in Progress Hall prior to the award ceremony set the stage for a revamped look and vibe.
A reception catered by three local high schools was arranged along one wall. The Bellerose, St. Albert Catholic and Paul Kane foods students rolled up their sleeves and popped on chef’s hats to create a savoury buffet of beef on a bun, several appetizers, fruit sorbet and crème brûlée.
As patrons munched at the preshow reception, three visual artists – Rick Rogers, Valerie Harbig and David Scott – were commandeered to battle the clock in the first ever Art Slam.
Standing in the centre of Progress Hall under a rack of spotlights, the artists furiously painted for 45 minutes while patrons bid on their works in a silent auction. The three paintings generated about $1,025.
“It’s crazy. It’s 45 minutes of starting terror and then you go with the flow. Thank God there’s music,” said Rogers, pointing to DJ Jaycie Jayce playing multi-generational top 40.
Hosts and entertainment
The award showcase began with hosts Ted Dykstra as the straight man and comic relief Kelly Aisenstat kibitzing, which naturally led to a few eye rolls from Dykstra.
It wasn’t edgy or sophisticated comedy – at times the shtick was clunky, at times hilariously funny.
The set was a 1940s radio station and the script called for a constant stream of Groucho Marx-styled groaners. Example: Dykstra asks Aisenstat about his success as a sculptor. Aisenstat replies, “Sculpting never appealed to the ladies. They just think I’m a chiseler.”
A raft of entertainment was programmed, with Paige Tirs performing a brisk, yet whimsical tap dance while feeding into pianist Jan Randall’s improvised notes.
Pop-folk singer-songwriter Doug Hoyer performed three effervescent songs and Mission Hill spoken word artist Troy Sherdahl took patrons on a fleeting image-based trip to Seven Hills and pigeons nesting around the Perron area.
Four actors from Three Form Theatre also sat at microphones and played out Pat Novak For Hire, a script about a hard-boiled private eye who commits a murder after meeting a beautiful, mysterious dame. A few times, the script appeared to lose focus and probably could have been shortened.
The audience rose in a standing ovation for classical guitar maker Michael Lazar as he accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Unlike televised award shows, the mayor’s awards have a tradition of ushering recipients offstage with a quick handshake after receiving their award and recipients are discouraged from vocalizing their thank yous.
The following day Lazar replied without hesitation when asked what he would have said had he been given a few minutes.
“I would have thanked the mayor and all the people who put all this together. I feel it’s a tremendous honour. I think I would express my appreciation for the city of St. Albert which is where I met my love Gaylene and raised my son Tyler, my pride and joy, and built my luthier job which is my passion.”
St. Albert Children’s Theatre alumnus Luc Tellier accepted the Youth Artist Award and St. Albert Cultivates the Arts Society, responsible for StArts Fest, was awarded the Community Arts Group Award.
Nobody seemed surprised that former councillor Carol Watamaniuk won the Arts Leadership Award for her decades-long crusade of encouraging arts development.
Visual artist Dixie Orriss, owner of Pygmalion School of Fine Art, earned the Excellence in Arts Teaching Award, and founder of St. Albert’s Visual Arts Guild Peg McPherson was recognized for her art practice in St. Albert and beyond.
Visual artist Daniel Evans, a first-time nominee, was cited for the Emerging Artist Award. This category was the tightest race with 10 nominees, including Neda Yamach, a principal violinist with Edmonton Symphony and two-time performer at Carnegie Hall.
“I didn’t go into it with any expectations. I wasn’t nervous. I just came to see what would happen,” said Evans. “But I’m pleased I received it especially for doing things that are a part of this community and its history.”
The evening closed with a surprise as Mayor Nolan Crouse presented Dykstra with a golden key to the city. Without missing a beat, Dykstra quipped, “Don’t be alarmed when I come into your house.”
And as part of the grand finale, the multi-talented Dykstra sat down at the grand piano and belted out the iconic Jerry Lee Lewis hit Great Balls of Fire from his hit musical Fire.
As people filed out of the Arden hall into the lobby, hugs and kisses were de rigueur. Event chair Mark Moran, who spent a large part of the evening welcoming people and shaking hands said, “The evening went so well. It was such a grand showcase of what people can do. It went exactly how we planned and everyone enjoyed the format.”