Last year, when I attended the Freda Diesing School Student Art Exhibition in Terrace, I noticed that most of the awards were for students 25 years old or younger. The school has some fine younger artists, but I thought that the older students deserved some recognition, too. To fill the gap, Trish and I decided to sponsor a Mature Student Award of $1000 per year, and to work towards making the award self-funding.
The official description of the award reads:
This award is given annually to a mature student (25 and over) from the
Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art who has demonstrated
leadership and mentoring qualities in the classroom. Faculty from the
School of Northwest Coast Art will select a student after confirmation of
enrollment in the second semester of the certificate or diploma program.
The award recipient must; be a First Nations Freda Diesing School of
Northwest Coast Art student; identify and work with a mentor to facilitate
the ongoing learning process; reside in British Columbia; demonstrate
potential in visual arts in the Northwest Coast style; and display
mentoring and leadership qualities in their relationships with other
students in the school both inside and outside class.
The award will be given for the first time in January 2010.
I have two main reasons for starting the award. First, as a late bloomer in my own craft of writing, I sympathize with the mature students. Being a student is hard enough when you are twenty, but when you are thirty-five or fifty, returning to school is even harder, because you probably have a family, and you are more set in your ways. Often, it means giving up a steady income when you’ve been used to one for years.
At the same time, I know from years as a university English instructor that older students are worth encouraging. They add a maturity to the discussion, and often serve as role-models and mentors to younger students.
Second, I am a buyer and lover of northwest coast art, especially art in the northern style taught at the school. I am not one of those people descended from Europeans who feel personally responsible for the wrongs against the First Nations that began before I was born, but I do believe in paying my debts and in doing the little I can to alleviate current problems. Northwest Coast art has given me hours of pleasure and learning, and I want to repay those hours with more than simple payment for each piece. I’d like to think that the award would help a student a little in the short term and in the long term maybe help them to launch their careers.
Compared to the other awards that the school gives, the Mature Student Award is starting off slowly. But I hope that it will eventually match the other awards, and become self-perpetuating.
If you are an artist, an art dealer, or someone who appreciates Northwest Coast art, please consider donating to the Mature Student Award. But don’t contact me. Instead, please contact Jill Girodat, the Associate Registrar at the Terrace campus of Northwest Community College at 250-638-5477 or jgirodat AT nwcc DOT bc DOT ca.