2012 Lieutenant-Governor Award for High Achievement in Performing Arts
ÉDITH BUTLER was born in that tiny village on the Acadian Peninsula in 1942. Édith writes her own music, usually on guitar or piano. she did not have formal music lessons. "I learned from my mother. My mother played piano — she still plays even though she is 90 years old!" she sang at home with her family of four brothers and sisters, at the church bingo, and at other small town shows. "I was a shy little girl," she recalls. "The moment I got on stage my shyness would disappear. It was a way for me to express myself." Édith has been expressing herself to audiences worldwide for more than 50 years. Her husky contralto and charismatic stage presence have charmed audiences across North america, in Europe, and in Japan. she has shared the stage with Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Robert Charlebois, and many others. she earned her own Radio Canada program at the age of 18 and was a featured performer on CBC Television's Singalong Jubilee while still a student at Moncton's College Notre Dame d'Acadie.
She was a favourite guest of the late Peter Gzowski, appearing on both of his television shows and on his long-running radio program Morningside. While studying for her Masters degree at Laval University, the young Édith frequented the coffee house circuit, playing wherever she could. "I started singing in the boîtes à chansons," she says in that unmistakable voice. "I spent my weekends playing guitar and singing. We were not paid; they just gave us a beer! I didn't care because I was doing it for fun and from there it just grew." It has grown into a long and distinguished career.
She has sold more than 1.5 million albums, been honoured with her own Canada Post stamp, received the Order of Canada, a Governor General's Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award from the East Coast Music Association,and many other honours. She was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame for Paquetville, the song she wrote with Lise Aubut to commemorate the hundredth birthday of her hometown. Esteemed Acadian author Antonine Maillet has said of Édith Butler, "She has given us a perspective on the world that, without her, we would never have known." Though Édith is much too modest to take the credit, her influence reverberates throughout what is today a rich and vibrant music scene — a scene that didn't exist when she was starting her career. She is a pioneer, calling herself a "strong nationalistic Acadian, but not a provocative one! If you talk about your culture with a great smile and lots of fun everybody will join you in the music. I have always crossed the barrier of language because music is a language by itself." Whether she is singing at the Olympia in Paris or in Caraquet's Village historique acadien, Édith Butler exudes an unparalleled joie de vivre. To see and hear her in concert is to experience her true exultation of spirit as she sings, plays and even dances across the stage.
Today, Édith lives in Quebec's eastern Townships, but she visits New Brunswick often and still thinks of it as home. "I have talked about New Brunswick and Acadia all my life. I talk about them almost every day. even though I live in Quebec, it's impossible for me to be other than an Acadienne from the Maritimes." a biography is in the works, written by her long-time manager and collaborator Lise Aubut. The Girl from Paquetville is sure to be a bestseller.
2012 Lieutenant-Governor Award for High Achievement in English Language Literary Arts
"Most of us live small lives." M.T. (Jean) Dohaney is talking about herself, as well as the characters she creates in her best-selling books. The Fredericton-based writer has five novels, a memoir, and numerous short stories to her credit. She won the 1996 Thomas head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize for her novel A Marriage of Masks. In 2000, her film script Come Back, Paddy Reilly won the Atlantic Film Festival/CBC Writer's Project. The women in Jean's books are hardened by life. They know what it is to suffer. Arguably her best-known creation is the indomitable Bertha Corrigan. "We all don't get what we deserve, nor for that matter deserve what we gets," says Bertha in The Corrigan Women, the first of a trilogy about the hardships of women in the outports. Quill and Quire magazine noted: "Dohaney's unfailing ear for dialogue and use of dark humour creates characters almost too vibrant to be contained on the page."
Dohaney, herself, is a vibrant presence — a lively, witty conversationalist with traces of her Newfoundland girlhood colouring her voice. although she has lived in New Brunswick since 1954, she was born in Point Verde, Newfoundland, a coastal village southwest of st. John's. she and her two brothers attended a parochial one-room school where supplemental reading material, other than the lives of the saints, was non-existent. she credits her older brother Alan for bringing books into her life. "Alan would bring in books to the house that he'd scavenged someplace because all we had was The Annals of Saint Anne."Alan encouraged her to read "meaty books" and to obtain a higher education. Jean was married and had started a family before deciding to take university classes. In 1967, she obtained a Ba in English from the University of New Brunswick, in spite of a dismissive faculty adviser, who told her "I don't know why you want to go to university. You're a faculty wife." she went on to earn a Masters (University of Maine) and a Doctorate of education (Boston University), spending almost thirty years as a teacher in the Fredericton area, a vocation she loved. "I'm born to be a teacher. Whatever information I have, I want someone else to have it, too. If I were living in the days of Socrates that's what I would have loved, imparting knowledge with little children at my feet. That's pride-filled now, isn't it?" she laughs.
Over the years, Jean wrote surreptitiously, hiding her unpublished short stories in a dresser drawer. One day, she got up the courage to show them to her beloved brother Alan. "Because I trusted Alan so much I showed him and he said, 'This is damn good.'" It took many years to build the confidence necessary to submit that first novel. Just before The Corrigan Women was published to acclaim, tragedy struck. her husband Walter died suddenly of a massive heart attack, leaving Jean reeling and alone. The diary she kept as she groped her way through her first year of widowhood became When Things Get Back to Normal, a powerful memoir of loss. The Globe and Mail called it "a stark realization of what it means to lose whom you most love." Though many people were touched by the raw edges of her grief, Jean says, "If I had been a rich woman, I would have bought up every copy in the bookstores. at the time it was too personal. I regretted having allowed it to go public."
Jean Dohaney has just completed her sixth and final novel. She intends to concentrate on short stories in future. She finds writing hard work. "Anyone who thinks you are joy-filled all the while you are churning out a novel is mistaken. It's hard work. What I like is not the writing, per se, it's telling the story." It is a small life, but a full one.
2012 Lieutenant-Governor Award for High Achievement in Visual Arts
"The work for the last few years has been about that spot in the world where ocean meets land. I'm exploring that." For David Umholtz, the water meets the land at Deer Island, a tiny outcrop of rock, trees and sand at the mouth of Passamaquoddy Bay. It is here, nestled in the woods in his rural studio, that David creates his signature works of art, a melding of paint and process. "I have a reputation as a printmaker, a master printer, and a publisher of fine art prints. however, in my own work, I have always painted more than I make prints.", but a full one. No matter the medium — acrylics, collage, or any form of printmaking — his work exhibits underlying purpose and direction leavened by genuine experimentation and play. Peter Buckland, of the Peter Buckland Gallery, says there is a deceptively simple elegance to the work. "Chasing down those fine moments of time and place, real and imaginary, where water and land coexist in a delicate balance, his paintings and prints are a beautiful fusion of content and composition." Umholtz's raison d'être, as a visual artist, is to stimulate viewers. "I would like them to think about a relationship they have with a place. It's a pretty simple thing that I'm after. I'm documenting ideas and places."
Along with his own creative work, David has devoted countless hours to teaching others and serving the arts scene. He has sat on the New Brunswick Arts Board, been a juror for the Canada Council, and been elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. He played a central role in the official Maine-New Brunswick Cultural Initiative. David's prints and paintings have been exhibited across North America and internationally, including at this year's International Print Triennial in Krakow, Poland. He has taught printmaking in the United States and Canada, at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, for instance, and at the University of Manitoba where he established Moosehead Press, at the Emily Carr School of the Arts in Vancouver. He has come a long way from the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, boy who wanted to be an architect.
Umholtz credits a Harrisburg artist named Robert Bates for illuminating a different path. "My mentor was a lovely, crazy guy. he was a wonderfully creative person who allowed me to see the world differently, opened my mind up to a lot of different possibilities. Coming to Canada also did that."David Umholtz moved to Canada in the early 1970s, after having established the screen printing program at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. he taught printmaking at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon and found his physical and spiritual home in New Brunswick, in 1972. "I have five kids. My first three were boys. I wanted to get them the hell out of the United states because Vietnam was still going on. I was adamant about getting my family established in Canada because it just had such a different attitude than the United states. It still does." Living here was, and continues to be, a very specific and deliberate choice, exerting tremendous influence upon his work and his life. "I have chosen to come to this island and I have chosen to immerse myself in marine activity with my boat. I have a little sailboat and I just kind of maraud the bay," he says with his trademark dry humour. "It all informs me. I'm just going to continue doing what it is I do. I am a visual artist — I have nothing from which to retire."