Presentation of the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts
Rideau Hall, Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Welcome, all of you, to Rideau Hall, the home of the people of Canada.
And welcome to this celebration of excellence in visual and media arts.
I’d like to begin by telling you about another very special celebration that took place in this ballroom, just a few weeks ago.
It was an event we held in partnership with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, which brought together young people from across Canada to share their visions for reconciliation.
The youngest participant was a grade two student from Carcross, Yukon. He stood about this high!
The event was called Imagine a Canada, and many of those young, hopeful visions for reconciliation were expressed in drawings, paintings and other mixed media.
It brought to mind the fact that many of the statements given to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission by residential school survivors were artistic statements.
Some Survivors said that although it hurt too much to tell their story in words, they were able to share their experiences through photographs, video, a performance piece or film. Others made quilts, carvings or paintings to depict residential school experiences, celebrate those who survived or commemorate those who did not.
Being among Canada’s finest visual and media artists and curators, you understand how the arts can help us to express the seemingly inexpressible.
That goes for each of us as individuals, and for our society as a whole.
The arts are a critical space for exploring the complexities of truth and healing. That’s why we need the help of our most imaginative and creative citizens.
That’s why we need your help.
These awards recognize your artistry and vision over many years, and I know that together, you’re deeply engaged in creating artistic responses to the issues of our time.
Not to deny the beauty of your work, but you are not mere painters of pretty pictures!
Over many years, you have brought your skill and vision to bear on both personal and political matters. In so doing, you have inspired audiences across Canada and around the world.
I’m so impressed by the range and quality of your achievements. You are photographers and filmmakers, textile artists and painters, conceptual artists and curators.
Together, your work is a testament to the vitality of the arts in Canada.
Each of you is also an ambassador for your community and for this country. And you are also mentors for the next generation of Canadian artists to follow.
I’m pleased to have this opportunity to thank you for your extraordinary dedication to the visual and media arts over many years.
And I would like to call on you, as we approach this country’s 150th birthday next year, to help us imagine a better Canada for all.
Congratulations on this well-deserved recognition. Have a wonderful evening.