Aboriginal queer director and filmmaker Adam Garnet Jones was awarded the RBC Emerging Artist Award at the Mayor’s Arts Awards lunch for the Toronto Arts Foundation on Oct 20.
The award was presented, not for one specific work, but as a celebration of Jones’ current accomplishments and future potential.
“I feel really grateful,” said Jones, of the $7,500 award. “It’s really going to change so much in my life.”
Jones is currently working on a genre-bending queer aboriginal thriller called Wild Medicine and the Walking Wounded, a music-driven film about young people teetering on the edge of adulthood. Jones confessed that it’s difficult to get funding for his projects, which often cover native and queer issues, because the current film industry doesn’t always support these groups.
Runners-up were Donna-Michelle St Bernard, a prominent Toronto playwright, and distinguished musical collaborator Reza Jacobs, who each won $1,000.
Donna O’Reilly, vice-president of commercial finances at RBC, said the jury saw Jones as “a dynamic young filmmaker whose accomplishments are already extraordinary. Adam’s a mentor for many young artists.”
Jones has worked with the imagineNative film festival, currently running until Oct 23, and InsideOut, Toronto’s LGBT film and video festival.
His films Cloudbreaker and A Small Thing were screened at the Toronto International Film Festival. Cloudbreaker, a film about a young First Nations boy discovering his identity, was screened in 2007 on Parliament Hill to mark the United Nations Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
While receiving the award, Jones admitted, “This is one of those things I’m not good at.” He thanked his colleagues and his boyfriend and then promptly dropped the award, a plate, as MC Ann-Marie MacDonald handed it to him.
MacDonald caught the plate and later joked, “People told me I caught that plate like I was a baseball player. But no — I’m just a lesbian doing my job.”
Mayor Rob Ford, who had earlier indicated he would attend the sixth annual awards lunch, was a no-show at the event, which celebrates local arts and culture.
Ironically, the mayor’s message, printed in the program, stated, “I am delighted to share the room with all of you who show such vision and leadership in making Toronto a creative city.”
Queer writer Don Oravec, executive director of the Writers’ Trust of Canada, was one of three nominees for the Rita Davies and Margo Bindhardt Cultural Leadership Award.
Canadian literary icon Margaret Atwood said she couldn’t think of a better candidate because the Writers’ Trust “has substantially increased resources for writers during the economic recession.”
However, Jane Marsland, a freelance arts consultant who’s worked with more than 90 arts organizations, won the award. Marsland expressed pride in sharing the nominations with Oravec and Sudha Khandwani, a presenter of international festivals and Indian dance symposia.
Awards were also presented to Trichy Sankaran, an artist, composer and educator, and the TD Bank Group for its cultural education programs and support of music festivals.
Artistic director of the Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre, Deborah Lundmark (who won the Arts for Youth Award) said, “I’m sad that Mr Ford is not here to see all of the beautiful arts and culture representatives that we have here in Toronto.”