Internationally Recognized Writer and Artist Named as this year's Distinguished Artists

EDMONTON, March 16 /CNW/ - An Albertan who has written extensively about his native province for the better part of half a century and one of Alberta's best-known aboriginal artists and lecturers will be this year's recipients of the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artist Awards.   The awards will be presented to Robert Kroetsch and Jane Ash Poitras at a gala event on Saturday, April 9th in St. Albert's new Enjoy Centre, as part of the city's 150th anniversary celebrations.

Robert Kroetsch was born in Heisler in central Alberta in the late 1920s and has been described as a novelist, poet, critic and creative non-fiction writer. His first work of fiction, "But We Are Exiles", was published in 1965, while his latest book of poetry "Too Bad", was published a little more than a year ago.

In all, his list of published works includes nine books of fiction, 14 books of poetry and seven non-fiction books.  Throughout his writing career, his works have been widely and critically acclaimed and his third book of fiction, "The Studhorse Man", won him the Governor General's Award for Fiction in 1969.   He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2004.

After graduating from the University of Alberta, he worked in Canada's north, other Western provinces and the United States before returning home to Alberta to live in a retirement community in Leduc. 

"I spent many years travelling around the world - but I never left Alberta," said Kroetsch. "It has always been a country of my imagination.   I love the stories, the landscape and the people."

Like Kroetsch, Jane Ash Poitras is a native Albertan who has gone on to achieve international fame and recognition.   Born in Fort Chipewyan, she was orphaned as a child and was fostered by a devout Catholic of German descent and grew up in Edmonton's McCauley neighbourhood.   Having been told that, despite her artistic tendencies as a child, she would not be able to make art a career choice, she graduated from the University of Alberta with a degree in microbiology.  However, she maintained her artistic work in evenings and eventually returned to the U of A, from where she graduated in 1983, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Printmaking.  Two years later, she graduated with a Masters degree from Columbia University in New York.

Since then, she has been featured in dozens of solo and group exhibitions both across Canada and in a number of other countries.   At the same time she has become recognized as a leading lecturer at universities and galleries across North America.

Commenting on the award, Poitras said: "I am thrilled to receive this award, and humbled to be in the company of the other recipients who are so accomplished.   I've travelled to the four corners of the planet, but I'm always excited to come back to Alberta to my family, my people….and my dogs."

In announcing this year's recipients, Susan Green, chair of the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards Foundation, commented on the continuing strong list of nominations for the awards.

"Our national three-person jury was convened this year by Sarah Iley, Vice President of Programming at The Banff Centre.   The panel members were Peter Herrndorf, President and CEO of the National Arts Centre; Patricia Bovey, retired curator, Winnipeg Art Gallery; and Grant Kennedy, founder Lone Pine Publishing. They had a difficult task of assessing almost 50 nominations for these awards, which represented a broad range of arts disciplines, including visual arts, theatre, music, dance and writing," said Green.   "It is a great credit to our province that we, as Albertans, are able to enjoy such a wonderful depth of artistic talent."

When the Distinguished Artist awards were initially created in 2005, the program established that up to three awards could be presented.   However, the financial crunch has reduced the return from the Foundation's endowments and the number of awards has been limited to two since 2009.

Each winner will receive a hand crafted Distinguished Artist medal from the Foundation, together with a certificate and a cheque for $30,000.   They also have the option for a free residency at the Leighton Artists' Colony at The Banff Centre.

Photos of Robert Kroetsch and Jane Ash Poitras are attached.

SOURCE Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards Foundation

For further information:

on the Foundation or the Awards: Susan Green - (780) 908-1149
The two recipients can be contacted at:
   Robert Kroetsch - (780) 769-1024
   Jane Ash Poitras - (780) 468-2686
For information on the Awards Gala: Sherri Drewe - (780) 459-1558

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Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards Foundation

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