The 2020 Mayor’s Arts Awards were announced Monday evening, and among the winners are a dancer, a sculptor, a poet, a playwright, and, for the first time, a musical ensemble.
The awards are divided into three categories.
• Three are “creator” awards, handed out to individuals or organizations for artistic merit and innovation in the city’s arts scene, and for contributions to the art form’s development. The 2020 winners are dancer Kay Kenney, sculptor Chaka Chikodzi, and the Kingston Symphony. They will receive $2,500 in addition to a certificate and the award itself.
• The “arts champion” award is given to a living person or group “who makes an extraordinary, leading contribution to the arts in Kingston as a volunteer, advocate, supporter, sponsor and/or philanthropist,” the city-issued news release reads. Poet Bruce Kauffman, the 2020 recipient, has hosted open-mic readings since 2009. Kauffman, who hosts a literary-focused radio show on CFRC, is himself a poet, having published four collections and four chapbooks of his own work. There was even an anthology film about him and the Kingston poetry scene (“Who is Bruce Kauffman?”) that came out a few years ago.
• And, lastly, the Limestone Legacy Award is bestowed upon an individual who made a lasting contribution to the vitality of the city’s arts scene “and whose influence has been felt in the region and beyond.” Award-winning poet and playwright Daniel David Moses, who died in July, is the 2020 winner. Over three decades, Moses, who came to Kingston to teach at Queen’s University, wrote 12 plays, four books of poetry and co-edited four volumes of “An Anthology of Canadian Native Literature in English.”
Each winner receives an award and certificate, while the “creators” will also receive a cheque for $2,500.
The Kingston Symphony is the first organization to win a Mayor’s Arts Awards since the awards started in 2017. The symphony has “excelled in making orchestral music meaningful to modern audiences,” the news release states, with its outreach and education programs.
That the symphony is the first organization is “a feather in our caps,” music director Evan Mitchell said.
“We’ve all been working really hard, so it’s nice to be acknowledged for that,” he said in an interview. “We’re very appreciative.”
Mitchell has always been keen in programming concerts, and has always looked for what they can “do beyond overture-concerto-symphony when we’re presenting an orchestra concert for people.”
“That’s been the driving force for us for our live concerts for years and years and years now,” Mitchell explained. “So it’s really wonderful to see that the things that we’ve been focused upon, that people are able to acknowledge and recognize, that that’s what we’ve focused upon, and further to that point, that we’ve been successful in that regard I think is wonderful.”
And since the pandemic began, the Kingston Symphony Orchestra has continued to be innovative. It started with its ambitious isolated orchestra performance video of Beethoven’s third symphony, to the simultaneous performance with members of the Sinfonia Rotterdam of composer Dean Burry’s “Nijmegen Bridge 1944” to mark Remembrance Day and the end of the Second World War, to the creation of the youth-focused, puppet-animated “Harmon in Space!” series.
While there have been lots of outstanding work by other orchestras, “the nature of the videos that we’ve done, the nature of the outreach that we’ve done, I really don’t see that being equalled by anybody,” Mitchell said.
Like the symphony, contemporary dancer Kay Kenney is an innovator.
Having grown up in Kingston, she stopped by for a visit in 2016 and never left.
“I set it as my mission to bring more dance and showcase professional dance and all of the things it can offer in Kingston,” Kenney said.
Having trained at the School of Dance in Ottawa, Kenney discovered a world of dance she didn’t know existed when she lived in Kingston and only saw big productions like “The Nutcracker” at the Grand Theatre.
“There are the big companies, but there’s also this performance art world, this intimate interaction for artists, (that’s) not always on the big stage,” she said.
Kenney was hoping to inspire local dancers to pursue their dreams and to expose them to different forms of dance.
Her first contemporary dance performance, titled “Initially/(un)conditionally,” was commissioned by the Juvenis Festival.
It wasn’t “a ‘5, 6, 7, 8, 1, 2, 3, 4,’ (type of show),” the choreographer explained. “There was talking, there were theatrics, there was projection work.”
Both nights sold out, and the enthusiastic reception buoyed her belief there was interest in contemporary dance in the city and inspired her to stage subsequent, and bigger, shows, while also curating professional dance series.
Most recently, she has founded the Movement Market Collective and Movement Market studio, a collaborative creation space for local artists.
When she found out she had won the award, Kenney said she was overwhelmed.
“I actually opened up a studio in this crazy pandemic time, so it was validation for the work that I put into the city, and for me to keep going with all of the heavy uncertainty COVID has put in our midst,” Kenney said of the award. “It’s encouraged me to keep going, to keep climbing this ladder for dance.”
The Mayor’s Arts Awards winners will also be recognized by city council at Tuesday night’s meeting.