When looking at this exhibition celebrating the Saidye Bronfman Award, it is impossible not to think about the transformations that have occurred over its 20-year history. These transformations mirror the changes that have occurred in Canadian craft over the same period.
"Transformation" has many meanings in this exhibition. Raw materials are transformed into finished works. Concepts and feelings become concrete in the hands of these craftspeople. Traditions are transformed into new expressions. It also reflects our changing attitudes towards the handmade object.
The Saidye Bronfman Award for Excellence in the Crafts, as it was known until 1990, was initiated to transform the profile of crafts in Canada. By providing both financial reward and public recognition, the Award allows the recipients opportunities for greater exposure in galleries and museums, as well as the means to gain new experience or to acquire additional equipment in order to proceed in new directions with their work.
Candidates for the Saidye Bronfman Award must be nominated by members of the crafts community through the Canadian Crafts Council. The nominees are reviewed by a jury of craftspeople and enthusiasts who consider all aspects of aesthetics, including creativity, innovation and technical mastery. Recipients of the Award receive a monetary prize, and their work is acquired by the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
During the early years of the Award, it was viewed, within the Canadian crafts community, as an acknowledgement of the contribution of the recipient. Craftspeople, gallery curators and enthusiasts looked forward to the announcement. The recipient's profile within his or her own milieu was reinforced. More recently, however, the profile of the Award has been strengthened outside of the crafts community. No longer does the Award celebrate one of our own; now it promotes fine craft and each recipient to a broad spectrum of Canadians.
Awards can also transform our perceptions. Through the acknowledgement of the quality of the recipients' work by other craftspeople in the nomination process, the jury in its selection, the Canadian Museum of Civilization through its collections and visitors to the exhibition, the craftspeople receive concrete recognition of their contribution to the artistic life of the country. As well, the Award emphasizes the connections that these individuals have with their own crafts communities through exhibiting, teaching and writing.
Transformation focuses on the works of the second 10 recipients, while also providing a review of works by the first 10. The majority of works chosen for the exhibition are drawn from the collections of the Canadian Museum of Civilization. These works have been supplemented by pieces from other collections both public and private. They are not intended to provide a complete retrospective overview of the recipients' work. Instead, they are meant to show the type of work that the recipients were producing at the time that they received the Award.
An earlier exhibition, Masters of the Crafts, examined the work of the first 10 recipients of the Saidye Bronfman Award. Opening at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in 1989, this exhibition also toured the country. Like the current exhibition, Masters of the Crafts aimed to demonstrate the divergent approaches to the craft media in contemporary practice.
In their statements, the recipients outline some of the motives behind their production of works of craft. By reading these comments and looking at the work of the 20 recipients, visitors will be able to witness the transformations that have occurred in the Award and in craft in Canada over the past 20 years.
Alan C. Elder
I take this opportunity to thank the Saidye Bronfman Award recipients for their assistance and patience with the assembly of this exhibition. I would also like to extend my thanks to Dr. Stephen Inglis, and the staff at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, for the invitation to curate this exhibition.