Thursday, December 11, 2008

Spilsbury Medal Show

Tonight was the opening and awards reception for the Spilsbury Medal Show at the Federation of Canadian Artists. I am eligible (first year was last year and I did get accepted with Crossroads), but have done no work this year that's worthy of submission. Well, not entirely true; my print "Returning to the Land" would have been worthy of submission, but as I produced it at Pal Press with Pat's help, it doesn't qualify for a juried Federation show. Printmaking can involve the master printmaker and the artist/printmaker, and still be considered the artist's work, but the Federation has rules against entering work that's not entirely by the hand of the artist, fair enough. Anyway, the Spilsbury show is the annual signature member only show, and the awards are quite prestigious. I have a loooong way to go before I'd ever get an award, but I would definitely like to try to get in again next year; it's a big deal to be accepted.

So here's a little history of Jim Spilsbury, for whom the show was named, and who originally sponsored the prize medals, from my article in the recent Art Avenue (the FCA publication):

Most members of the Federation recognize the name Spilsbury from the eponymous award show, an annual event open only to Signature members. I had no idea whom this show was named after, nor what kind of significance that name held for all British Columbians, especially on the coast. I was intrigued when I recognized the name gracing the spine of a book on my father-in-law’s shelf, so I borrowed the volume to satisfy my curiosity. What a treasure I had uncovered!

Spilsbury’s Coast, by Howard White and Jim Spilsbury, is an account of the incredible life of one of B.C.’s most remarkable pioneers, Aston James Spilsbury (1905 – 2003), 1993 recipient of the Order of British Columbia. Within a single lifetime, Jim Spilsbury was an active participant in the technological revolution of radio communication and aviation transportation on the West Coast of B.C. Due to a fateful lack of aptitude for working on the open ocean, Jim’s career as a merchant mariner was cut short by constant sea- and home-sickness. But while he was aboard the S.S. Melville Dollar, he was introduced to what would become a life-long passion: radio communication. Jim was an innovator in the radio communication industry, plying the waters of the Strait of Georgia and Johnstone Strait to attend to his isolated customer’s needs. He developed, serviced and jury-rigged radios, from the original tubes to radiotelephones, with ingenuity and spare parts, to keep communications open with remote outposts of logging camps and fishing villages to the outside world. His various radio communication enterprises were evolved through the efforts of improving sporadic communication along this rugged coastline. In 1943, Jim bought a seaplane, one of the first on this coast, to improve services for his radio communication business. While no longer in business, Jim’s Queen Charlotte Airlines grew to Canada’s third largest airline in 1955. Spilsbury Communications Ltd. expanded to become recognized internationally and Canada’s largest radio-telephone exporter.

Beyond all of these accomplishments, Jim Spilsbury was a talented storyteller, an enthusiastic teacher, and an accomplished artist, representing his beloved coast in pastels and pen-and-ink. While there has been an annual Signature members’ exhibition held at the Federation for decades, Jim Spilsbury was persuaded to fund the original medals created, through Jeanne Duffey’s suggestion and Stafford Plant’s encouragement, in 1992. The first gold medal winner was Alan Wylie (who has achieved this award now four times, once again this year, since its inception). This annual event represents the culmination of work for each Signature member involved, and the gold medal award is arguably the most prestigious available within the Federation. This year’s show runs from December 9 to 24, and the opening is during our annual Christmas party, on Thursday, December 11 from 4-6 pm in the gallery. Please join us for this spectacular exhibition, showcasing work by some of the best artists in the Federation, and be sure to catch the exciting medal presentation at the opening.

Thanks to FCA historian, Ellen Poole, for her gracious assistance with details regarding the Spilsbury award show.

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