A ceremony and gala taking place next month in Vancouver will celebrate the lifetime achievements of Max Wyman, one of Canada’s foremost critics and cultural commentators, as well as the roll-out of a province-wide biennial award named in his honour.
Instituted by community leader and philanthropist Dr. Yosef Wosk, The Max Wyman Award for Cultural Commentary will recognize achievement in critical writing and commentary on the visual, performing and literary arts.
The award, affectionately known as “the Max”, celebrates writing that stimulates critical thinking, fosters an ongoing discussion about the role of arts and culture in contemporary society, and demonstrates the importance of creative commentary as a tool in our understanding and interpretation of the world around us. It will encompass the visual arts, theatre, dance, literature, all genres of music, film and television, as well as more general cultural commentary, in print, broadcast and online formats.
“The award was established to catalyze the art of creative criticism among us,” says Wosk. “As our society matures, feedback must also deepen and respond to inspired offerings. A province-wide award will be presented to a writer for an outstanding piece or body of work that will raise the level of cultural conversation.”
Max Wyman will not only be the first laureate, but will also receive a Lifetime Achievement Award in honour of his commitment and dedication to critical writing and cultural commentary.
Wyman was born in England and emigrated to Canada in 1967. His career includes longstanding relationships with the Vancouver Sun and The Province newspapers. He has written for numerous national and international publications including Maclean’s and The New York Times. He has also published several books on the arts in Canada, among them Dance Canada: An Illustrated History (cited as one of the "165 great Canadian books of the twentieth century") and The Defiant Imagination: Why Culture Matters, a passionate manifesto asserting the central importance of the arts and culture to modern society.
Wyman has served as governor of the Canadian Conference of the Arts (1972-1974), sat on the board of the Canada Council for the Arts (1995-2000), and was president of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO (2002-2006). He recently served as president of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival (2010-2012). He has served on numerous cultural committees in Vancouver and juries for prominent national arts awards, including the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards.
For his services to the arts he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2001, and received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Simon Fraser University in 2003. Other honours include the Queen’s 25th, 50th and 60th Jubilee Medals, the Canada 125 Medal and the Cecilia Zhang Memorial Music Award by the Royal Conservatory of Music in 2004. Wyman has also been active in municipal politics and served as mayor of Lions Bay from 2005-2008.
“We are fortunate to have Max Wyman among us,” says Wosk. “He is a cultural paragon whose clear vision, incisive writing, and fearless voice have both grounded and encouraged us for half a century. He is an unparalleled personality, a cultural critic and midwife of creativity whose influence is sure to be modelled by future generations.”
Wyman called the creation of the award “a surprise, an embarrassment and a delight” and added: “At a time when serious and lively engagement with all kinds of cultural expression seems to be under significant threat, the creation of this award could not be more timely.
“Cultural commentary will not produce a cure for cancer. It will not take us to Mars (not physically, at least). But in its constant probing of new ideas and its ceaseless explorations of the human spirit it gives us ways to rethink who we are and contemplate how we can be better. We are privileged and passing occupiers of this marvellous earth. Books, plays, paintings, ballets, music... they guide us to the hidden truths of our daily being.
“And I salute the humane vision, the generosity and the sheer goodness of heart that animates not just this inspirational project but everything Yosef does to make our world a better place, for those who are here now and for those who will follow. He’s the kind of reader every writer writes for.”
Award recipients will receive a commemorative certificate along with a specially commissioned gold, silver and emerald pin mounted in a limited-edition book, both designed by Robert Chaplin, RCA. In 2019, a $5,000 cash prize will be added to the honours. To mark and celebrate the continuing vitality of creative commentary for future generations, the award recipient will also name an emerging author of critical commentary to receive a $1,000 honorarium.
Join us for a Celebration
The public are invited to join us for an evening honouring the inimitable Max Wyman and celebrating the launch of The Max Wyman Award for Cultural Commentary at the Vancouver Playhouse on April 18, 2017 at 5:30 p.m.
Master of Ceremonies for the evening will be Christopher Gaze, artistic director of Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival. Among the guest speakers and performers will be publisher Scott McIntyre, multidisciplinary artist Hank Bull, writer and editor Charles Campbell, artistic and executive director of PuSh International Performing Arts Festival Norman Armour, actor Nicola Cavendish, pianist Linda Lee Thomas and dancers Noam Gagnon and Wen Wei Wang.
RSVP To Attend
Attendance at the event is free, but an RSVP is required.
Contact the BC Alliance for Arts + Culture at 604 681 3535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Full award guidelines, including a 2019 call for submissions, will be posted in the coming months on the Alliance’s website at www.allianceforarts.com/awards.