Nelson artist Ian Johnston says people in cities across the continent are impressed when they tell them he is Nelson’s 2016 cultural ambassador.
“They are really quite amazed that we have such a thing, they think it is wonderful,” he says. “And I get people saying it would be great to do that in their city. I think it is a fantastic thing that we do that, that we recognize the value of culture.”
In the past year Johnson has had exhibitions in Georgia, Florida, and Prince George. And he’s spent time on art-related projects and networking in Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto, and Chicago.
Johnston makes large installations using mixed media and video.
The city opened nominations this week for the 2017 ambassador. Each year the city’s cultural development committee designates a specific artistic medium. In 2016 it was visual arts, and it 2017 it will be literary arts.
“It’s great for artists to have official recognition and spread the word about the wonderful arts town we live in,” says the city’s cultural development officer Joy Barrett.
But for Johnston, spreading the word about Nelson has only been part of the reward. Ironically, it has helped to spread the word about him in Nelson, where he lives but rarely works.
“In Nelson, in the first six months (after the award), I was amazed at the outpouring of support I got when it was announced, on Facebook for instance.
“I go out of town so much that nobody knows me here, and all of a sudden people know who I am and what I do. It has opened up the world for me within Nelson, where I live.”
The Corazón youth choir was Nelson’s first cultural ambassador in 2009. Since then the city has been represented by Angelica Werth (fibre artist), Anne DeGrace (writer), Hiromoto Ida (dancer), Amy Bohigian (filmmaker), Bessie Wapp (singer and musician), Lucas Myers (actor) and Johnston.
The award comes with a $1,000 honorarium and will be presented at the city’s annual reception in December.
To nominate a writer for the 2017 award, contact Joy Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org for a nomination form and for further information.