Edmonton writer and Lethbridge Gallery curator win Lieutenant Governor Arts Awards

    EDMONTON, May 6 /CNW/ - One of Edmonton's most prolific writers and the
former curator of Lethbridge's Southern Alberta Art Gallery have been named as
this year's winners of the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artist
    Rudy Wiebe, a professor emeritus of Canadian literature and creative
writing at the University of Alberta, has written nine novels, four short
story collections, two children's books and six books of non-fiction. The son
of Russian immigrants, who wanted to save their children from Soviet
oppression, he was born in 1934 in Speedwell, Saskatchewan. His love of this
tiny Mennonite community was effectively portrayed in his latest multi-award
winning book, "Of This Earth", which was published in 2007. It has since
received the Charles Taylor Award for Literary Non-fiction and the Grant
McEwan Award, both in the publication year. His latest book is the biography,
"Big Bear" in the Penguin Extraordinary Canadians series.
    Joan Stebbins graduated from the University of Lethbridge in 1979 with a
Bachelor of Fine Arts with Great Distinction and, at the same time began what
was to be her life-long association with the Southern Alberta Art Gallery. She
has now been associated with the Gallery for more than 40 years, and is
generally credited with the gallery being viewed as one of the country's
leading contemporary arts institutions. During her tenure she has also
supervised the preparation and production of accompanying publications for the
wide range of exhibitions presented each year. From starting her gallery
career as a custodian, she regularly undertook increasing responsibilities and
was the gallery's Curator from 1985 until her retirement at the beginning of
this year.
    "Given that the current economic situation has forced the Foundation to
limit its awards to two this year, our selection panel faced a tough challenge
in reviewing some high caliber nominations. However, the panel was unanimous
in selecting Rudy Wiebe and Joan Stebbins, and I think, once again, we have
Distinguished Artists, who are widely recognized and admired, both across the
country and internationally," said Susan Green, the chair of the Lieutenant
Governor of Alberta Arts Awards Foundation.
    The awards will be presented June 20th in Grande Prairie at an awards
gala, the highlight event of Iskoteo, a new, five day arts festival in that
city. The awards ceremony will be held in the newly refurbished Douglas J.
Cardinal performing arts centre, which is an award-winning link with the past,
as the famed Alberta architect was one of the first two Lieutenant Governor
Award winners in 2005.
    While resting at home following knee surgery, Ms. Stebbins said: "This
award caught me completely by surprise; I am honoured to receive recognition
for my work on behalf of Alberta's visual artists. My nearly three decades of
curatorial programming at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery sought to promote
Alberta's artists along side of their peers from across Canada. The Province
has consistently lent generous financial support to foster these connections
and provide further opportunities to our community of artists."
    She is looking forward to resuming her research into the life of Donald
W. Buchanan, a Lethbridge native who became Associate Director of the National
Gallery of Canada. Started in 1982, by interviewing a number of Buchanan's
peers who have since died, Ms. Stebbins hopes to complete her biographical
memoir in the near future, which will constitute an original contribution to
Canadian art history scholarship.
    Commenting on his award, Rudy Wiebe said: "I feel most honoured, and
grateful, to join Joan Stebbins in receiving the Lieutenant Governor of
Alberta Distinguished Artist Award. My parents, with their five children,
arrived in Didsbury, Alberta, as penniless refugees from the Soviet Union in
March, 1930, and they could not dream that a child of theirs would ever become
a writer, published and read in many parts of the world. But this magnificent
country Canada, our home, game me that opportunity, helped me to explore my
crazy ideas, my place, my ancestors - wherever I found stories that ruffled my
imagination. To receive this high honour from Alberta, where I have lived,
writing almost all my life, makes me profoundly happy."

    More detailed biographies on the two winners can be found on the
Wikipedia website.

For further information:

For further information: on the awards program contact Susan Green at
(780) 908-1149; on the Gala awards presentation and Iskoteo contact Ald. Helen
Rice at (780) 518-0939; or the Award winners: Joan Stebbins at (403) 381-4537;
Rudy Wiebe at (780) 432-1285

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