Rudy Wiebe Wins Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artist Award

May 12, 2009

Edmonton-Celebrated Canadian author and U of A professor emeritus Rudy Wiebe has added another award to his long list of accolades, winning a Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artist Award.

"My parents, with their five children, arrived in Didsbury, Alberta, as penniless refugees from the Soviet Union in March 1930, and they could not dream that a child of theirs would ever become a writer, published and read in many parts of the world," said Wiebe.

"But this magnificent country, Canada, our home, gave me that opportunity, helped me to explore my crazy ideas, my place, my ancestors-wherever I found stories that ruffled my imagination. To receive this high honour from Alberta, where I have lived, writing almost all my life, makes me profoundly happy."

The $30,000 award was initiated in 2005 to recognize individuals who have made substantial contributions to the arts in Alberta. It is handed out in odd-numbered years to up to three artists on the recommendation of an adjudication panel. Recipients also receive a hand-cast medallion, a pin and framed citation and, where appropriate, a residency at the Banff Centre Leighton Artists Colony.

Wiebe, who taught creative writing at the U of A for decades and founded the Faculty of Arts Writer-in-Residence program in the 1970s, has written nine novels, four short-story collections, two children's books and six books of non-fiction. The son of Russian immigrants who wanted to save their children from Soviet oppression, he was born in 1934 in Speedwell, Saskatchewan.

His love of this tiny Mennonite community was portrayed in Of This Earth: A Mennonite Boyhood in the Boreal Forest (2006), which received the Charles Taylor Award for Literary Nonfiction and the Grant McEwan Author's Award. His latest book is the biography, Big Bear, in the Penguin Extraordinary Canadians series, which has been shortlisted for the Wilfred Eggleston Award for Non-fiction by the Writers Guild of Alberta.

"The panel was unanimous in selecting Rudy Wiebe and (Lethbridge curator) Joan Stebbins, and I think, once again, we have distinguished artists who are widely recognized and admired, both across the country and internationally," said Susan Green, chair of the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards Foundation.

The awards will be presented by the lieutenant governor on June 20 in Grande Prairie at an awards gala, the highlight event of Iskoteo, a new, five-day arts festival in that city. The awards ceremony will be held in the newly refurbished Douglas J. Cardinal performing arts centre.

Wiebe will also receive an honorary degree from the U of A on June 10 during the arts faculty's convocation ceremonies.

May 6, 2009 - by Geoff McMaster, Express News, University of Alberta


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