For members and supporters of the local arts scene, the name Mary MacDonald is one that resonates far and wide. Much more than a participant and ardent supporter of the community, the beloved artist, arts administrator, curator and writer was a true champion for the arts, who used her voice and work to help lift others.
While Mary passed away from cancer at the age of 32 last July, her legacy and love for the arts will endure. The Mary MacDonald Award from Visual Artists Newfoundland & Labrador (VANL-CARFAC) is just one of the honours in her memory.
Sponsored this year by creative communications agency Perfect Day, the Mary MacDonald Award (which consists of $1,000 and an artwork by John MacDonald) acknowledges an individual or organization who have helped to build and sustain the visual arts sector – something which was so very important to its namesake.
“Mary was absolutely one of those people—she always worked incredibly hard to create opportunities for people and to make the sector work in a way that supported artists first and foremost. She was a VANL member and served on our advocacy committee for a number of years. We really wanted to honour her memory, and this seemed like a perfect way to do that because Mary always embodied the spirit of the award,” says Dave Andrews, Executive Director of VANL-CARFAC.
The winner of this year’s award is Eastern Edge Gallery (EEG), who were honoured during VANL’s 13th annual Excellence in Visual Arts (EVA) Awards ceremony at The Rooms earlier this month. The award money will go towards EEG’s Mary MacDonald Foundation, which supports independent curatorial projects.
Established in 1984, EEG is the province’s first artist-run centre for visual arts. It is because of their tireless work and dedication since the start, Andrews says, that they were chosen for this year’s award.
“For a relatively small artist-run centre, Eastern Edge plays a very big role. It’s been well over 30 years now that they’ve been supporting and encouraging innovative work from emerging and established artists, and that’s made them one of the major creative hubs within the province. So they’ve been both an indispensable part of the community’s past but also, it’s that sort of work and support and dedication that’s going to keep visual arts culture sustainable and exciting in the future,” he says.
“One of the people who nominated the gallery for the award described how incredibly hard the staff and board and volunteers have always worked to fulfill their mandate, but that they’ve also done it in a way that has fostered ‘collaboration, congeniality and diversity in the cultural community.’ I think that sums it up pretty well.”
John Devereaux, Creative Director at Perfect Day (which has sponsored the EVA Awards for the past four years), says the award is one they’re proud to support.
“Mary MacDonald was smart and kind, passionate and dedicated, and exactly the kind of person whom we would want to represent the arts community, so we were very proud to be associated, in a small way, with the award,” he says.
“As with most businesses, we are asked to sponsor a wide variety of events and groups, and we contribute as much as we are able. However, there will always be a place within Perfect Day for award sponsorships like the EVAs and the Mary MacDonald Award. The arts are an integral part of our community, and deserve much more recognition than they often receive. VANL-CARFAC can count on the support of Perfect Day for as long as they’ll have us.”