Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and City Council has announced the inaugural recipient of the first Mayor’s Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement, distinguished Vancouver playwright Tom Cone (seen here with Edward Topp).
The announcement is timed to mark Mr. Cone’s upcoming 65th birthday on March 25.
“Tom’s influence has inspired innumerable local and national artists in their creation and exhibition of new works of theatre, visual art, experimental music, and literature,” said Mayor Robertson in making the announcement. “He has worked tirelessly to lead and strengthen Vancouver’s arts and cultural community and to encourage dialogue about the arts and public life.”
Born in Miami, Florida, Tom chose Vancouver as the home from which he launched a decades-long career as a playwright, librettist, teacher, and impresario, beginning with the 1972 CBC Radio Drama production of his play There. This was followed by a string of plays that put Tom Cone and Vancouver on the theatrical map: Cubistique (1974); Herringbone (1975); Whisper To Mendelsohn (1975); The Imaginary Invalid (1975), Beautiful Tigers (1976); Shotglass (1977); Stargazing (1978); 1792 (1978); and The Writer’s Show (1978).
His work has often presented provocative ideas about morality and art, stretching existing forms through the integration of music and the visual arts. Critics have described characters in many of his plays as “riding a fault line, about to make a change which may result in tragedy”, and sharing an “evocative, somewhat taboo recollection of their common past.”
Believing that artists and audiences could be brought together by considering economies of scale, Tom has commissioned new works from Vancouver’s most adventurous composers and improvising musicians, works which were often then performed in Tom and Karen Matthews’ home —with fees paid through a collection at the door. Tom always insists that the artists get paid.
The early concerts in Tom and Karen’s living room led to the now legendary SONG ROOM series.
The home concerts were only the beginning. Tom went on to found and co-found a number of innovative, wildly successful collaborative artist-oriented projects including: SONG ROOM (2004 - ), a salon for the commissioning of new song collaborations between Vancouver composers and writers, with Karen Matthews and David Pay of Music on Main; CABINET: Interdisciplinary Collaborations (2007 - ), an experimental arts collective established to produce new work in Vancouver, with Marie Lopez, Karen Love and David Pay; THE 0PERA PROJECT (2011 - ), ten-minute operas for up to four singers and four instrumentalists, bringing together and commissioning Vancouver writers, composers and musicians, with Karen Matthews; and HOME FRONT (2011 - ), a new series featuring B.C. poets, with Karen Matthews and Jenny Penberthy.
“We are delighted to introduce the new Mayor’s Arts Award category for Lifetime Achievement by presenting it to an artist who has made such a phenomenal contribution to the cultural life of our City,” concluded Mayor Robertson.
About The Mayor’s Arts Awards: The Mayor’s Arts Awards, established by City Council in 2006, recognize established and emerging artists in a wide variety of disciplines, from literary to culinary to performing and visual arts. With this year’s addition of the Lifetime Achievement Award, the program includes awards in fifteen categories, including performing and studio art forms, and support of the arts through volunteerism and philanthropy.
The 2012 Mayor’s Arts Awards ceremony will be held in September, date and venue to be announced in the spring.