Although Ruth Lawrence is originally from a small town community, St. Jacques, she is one of the elite members of the Newfoundland and Labrador arts community today.
Lawrence was recognized for her important role in the provincial arts community for 2011 as she was won the Artist of the Year Award from the Newfoundland Labrador Arts Council (NLAC) at an award show held in Gander on April 28.
Lawrence has been an active member of the Newfoundland arts scene since the late 1980s and is a very respected member of the community today.
Even so, she said that she was pleasantly surprised to receive the prestigious honour.
“I was really not expecting to win,” Lawrence said, “as I was up against two formidable nominees in Tina Dolter, a visual artists who had a tremendous year in 2011 and the theatre group Artistic Fraud whose work has received Canadian and international attention.”
While the other nominees for the award did some great things in 2011, it was also an outstanding year for Lawrence.
She finished up a three-year contract at the Nickel Film Festival, which saw the festival broaden significantly under her leadership. Lawrence also produced and performed in a play ‘MonaRita” that took her across Canada in the White Rooster Theatre Company. The play was performed in Halifax, Toronto, Hamilton, Winnipeg and St. John’s.
The play received the Best Ensemble Performance Award at the Toronto Fringe Festival that included hundreds of plays from different companies in 2011. The award was presented by ‘Now’ magazine which is the top arts magazine in Toronto.
In September 2011 Lawrence won the Best Actress Award at the Atlantic Film Festival for her performance in a Joel Thomas Hynes short film ‘Clipper Gold’. To top of the year, she received the RBC Michelle Jackson Emerging Film Festival Award that recognizes someone who is beginning a career in filmmaking. This award was presented at the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival.
Lawrence said that 2012 will be another busy year for her and her colleagues.
“In January I shot a short film entitled ‘Two Square Feet’ which will premiere at this year at the St. John’s Women’s International Film Festival, “ Lawrence said.
“ While putting the finishing touches on this film, I’m also completing a play I’ve been writing for a few years, a musical theatre piece entitled ‘Big In Myself’ which is a tribute to a friend who is going through bulimia. I’m hoping to see this in production at least by 2014.
“To top of all that, I’ve just been hired by MUN to organize a Fishing for the Future Film Festival which will produce films and documentaries to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the cod moratorium announcement of 1992.”
With great awards come big responsibilities and Lawrence said that she now feels that she has a duty to help emerging artists in the province hone their craft.
She said, “I think this award puts the onus on me to make sure that I follow up on my obligation now to help emerging artists. I’ve certainly been recognized for my work in 2011 and my previous body of work so, in some ways, I see this as a signal that I really need to focus a lot on the next generation of artists that are coming up. While I’ve always supported emerging artists I feel now that I’m at the point in my career when I really need to pay attention to that cause.
“I know from experience that when I came back from Toronto in the early 1990s my peers very much embraced me with open arms. There were so many great opportunities for me, and with great support, it all lead to my recent award.
“I think it’s up to artists like me to support the next group who are starting their careers so, in a way, this award is not so much about opening doors for me, but I think I should open my door to them.”
And she will have plenty of young artists to support as the Newfoundland arts community is growing at a much faster rate today than it was back when Lawrence entered the scene back in the late 1980s. And Lawrence is looking forward to the challenge.
“I think opening your mind to the arts is really an enriching experience. Of course, you don’t have to be an artist to enjoy the arts. The arts – music, film, theatre, dance – can really add a very rich element to your life, and I’m looking forward to helping our new artists excel in their craft.”