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Barrie Arts Awards celebrate the best

By Susan Doolan, Special to Postmedia Network

An enthusiastic crowd of arts supporters — the largest to date — packed the Southshore Community Centre on Wednesday for the annual Barrie Arts Awards.

The evening unfolded with a mix of entertainment and witty remarks from comedian Andrea Murray, who shared master of ceremonies duties with Tony Grace, in between the presentation of awards.

This year also marked a changing of the guard after a four-year term, for the city’s first poet laureate, Dr. Bruce Meyer. He presented a laurel wreath and medallion to his successor, Damian Lopes.

“I am humbled,” said Lopes, adding Meyer laid the foundation for the new office and raised the bar high. “I hope to follow in his footsteps.”

He spoke of his aim to continue to grow poetics and how it promotes reading and writing at the core of it.

“The power of writing and reading is profound,” said Lopes, who is the author of three published books of poetry (print), two online poetry-multimedia works, and is currently in the midst of several novels.

Marlene Hilton Moore was the recipient of the Excellence in the Arts award. She has had a controversial — some might say scandalous — relationship with the city since she created a large bronze sculpture knows as the Site Breast. Yet it set her on a course to create public art works that continues today.

“At the time, there was so much conservatism,” said Hilton Moore, adding that it advanced art as a part of daily life. “Everybody talked to me (about it ) — (they) would stop me in the grocery store. (They) had ownership in it.”

Her newest piece, a veteran’s memorial of the Korean War, for the Beausoleil First Nations of Christian Island, will be unveiled on Tuesday, Nov. 11 outdoors in a park on the island. She is also known as the co-creator of The Valiants Memorial, a $1.1-million project that included numerous statues, busts and a large bronze wall mural which resides in downtown Ottawa.

On a smaller scale, she created last year’s Barrie Arts Award, which was inspired by the female form. One of her local monuments, dedicated to volunteer firefighters, can be found at the corner of Mulcaster and Collier streets. Retired from teaching at Georgian College four years ago, Hilton Moore is busier than ever and is currently at work on several commission of public art.

Robin Munro took home the Contribution to the Community award. He is recognized as the founder Barrie Jazz and Blues Festival, which spawned the February Blues Festival. He also created the Canadian Jazz and Blues Hall of Fame, an organization that has inducted artists such as Moe Koffman, Oscar Peterson and Jackie Washington.

Munro has also support of variety arts organizations and donated his own time as a musician, performing for not-for-profit groups such as Gilda’s Club, the AIDS Committee of Simcoe County and the United Way.

Sixteen-year-old Lyric Dubee won the Most Promising Youth award. Born and raised in Barrie, he started his music career at age nine and has just returned from Los Angeles where he was working on recording his fourth album.

A proficient guitarist in a variety of genres from rock to pop, jazz and blues, Dubee has created his own personal style, dubbed revolution rock, shared the stage with well-known artists such as Jim Cuddy (Blue Rodeo) and performed for local charities and events such as Tourette Syndrome, 12 Ladies in a Tent and Gilda’s Club.

Clayton Samuel King, a Potawatomi artist and a member of Beausoleil First Nation, received the Emerging Artist award. While acrylics and graphite are his primary mediums, he has also worked in photography,

sculpture, mixed media and traditional First Nations crafts. He has exhibited in a variety of group shows in southern Ontario, two solo exhibitions in London and Barrie and he’s won nine awards and scholarships.

It has been a good year for the Pratt family. Named recently to MacLaren Art Centre’s Legacy Award, this time two members of the family — Karen Pratt Hansen and Heljar Hansen — were recognized with the Business Award for their contributions to local arts organizations as well as their public art installation of the Spirit Clock at their Yonge Station development.

Designed by Spirit Catcher artist Ron Baird, they expect to have another of works, the Sea Serpent, at Barrie’s waterfront in the fall of 2015.

One of the highlights of the event, other than the awards, were the performances which featured many home-grown artists, from the Moving Art dancers to magician James Harrison, hip-hop’s L.S., singer-songwriter Brett Caswell and Carleigh Aikins, both of whom were also part of the collective Broken Simcoe Scene which wrapped up the evening.

In between, there was a screening of a documentary about Larry Christopher, a local cafe owner and Neil Young tribute artists. It won the shorts program, Simcoe County division, at the 2014 Barrie Film Festival.

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