Two North Okanagan residents have been recognized for their contribution to the arts in their respective fields with Okanagan Arts Awards.
Vernon’s Patricia Donahue and Grindrod’s Cathy Stubington, who were nominated by colleagues, both received their awards on the weekend at the presentation gala in Kelowna, hosted by the Arts Council of the Central Okanagan.
All the winners were presented with a bronze cast sculpture designed by Kamloops artist Terry Shewchuk.
Attending the black tie event was Donahue, a Vernon-based novelist and writing instructor, who said she was honoured and surprised to receive an award even though she was the only name selected as a nominee in the literary category.
“They could have elected to not award literary as happened in 2008 and 2011,” she said. “It feels great to be publicly acknowledged for my years of hard work. Writing, especially novel writing, is a solitary endeavour; so much of this creative work is done absolutely alone. No one supervising, no one scheduling, except me. With little on-going feedback, these particular times when the community takes note is quite special not to mention encouraging.”
Donahue, who is a founding member of the Okanagan Writers League and is a member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, was, in part, recognized for her novel, Mighty Orion – Fate, published by Borealis Press in 2010.
The book is set on the eastern seaboard during the era of tall ship building.
A native of Dalhousie, N.B., Donahue grew up around ship building, and even trained as a tall ship sailor in 2004, which she used as research for her book.
Accompanying Donahue to the awards ceremony was another Dalhousie native, Paul Harding, who she said arrived via a dubious route; driving for 23 kilometres from a rural mountain top at 5,000-plus feet altitude, then travelling twice the distance to the highway, then making the remainder of the journey into Kelowna.
“He did make it off the mountain, only because a huge plow came along to plow for logging trucks at 4 a.m. kind of out of the blue. We figured it was divine intervention because there was no way even for a Skidoo to make it out,” said Donahue.
“He hastily got into his tux and we made it on time for the fabulous red carpet photograph and Castanet interview then on to chef Michael Lyon’s great appetizers and Summerhill wines at the pre-party. Overall, it was a very polished affair with a packed house at the Kelowna theatre.”
A former registered nurse and private therapist, Donahue also writes about the reconciliation process, which helps people work on unresolved relationship conflicts to better health and prevent disease.
This theme is prevalent in Mighty Orion – Fate, which is available at Bookland and the Cracked Pot Emporium in Vernon.
Donahue has also written a sequel, Mighty Orion — Secrets, which is awaiting publication.
“A message I always impart to my writing students is that the arts are what makes us human. It provides people an identity, and gives a community definition. So I’m happy and honoured to have my community know that I contribute,” she said.
Those sifting through the nominations could also not ignore the track record of Stubington, who was recognized with an arts award for her contribution to theatre.
The founder of Enderby’s Runaway Moon Theatre, and a community arts advocate whose reach goes beyond North Okanagan-Shuswap borders, Stubington is a renowned puppeteer who runs a puppet museum in Grindrod.
Along with Runaway Moon, Stubington has staged a number of environmental, community-based plays, twice using the whole city of Enderby. She has also worked closely with the Splatsin First Nation on a shadow theatre play that was staged at Enderby’s Starlight Drive-in Theatre as well as on agricultural-based plays and projects at Grindrod’s Curly Willow Farm.
It was Runaway Moon Theatre board president Deb Humphries who nominated Stubington on behalf of the Enderby and District Arts Council.
“She is one of the best kept secrets in the Okanagan,” said Humphries. “She is committed to her work as a community arts advocate and artist. She has done all these amazing things in the community, however, many people outside of Enderby-Grindrod don’t know what she has been doing, so the arts council wanted to recognize and honour her.”
More recently, Stubington has been involved with the Akonjo project, bringing youth empowerment and health education to a village in Kenya about the size of Enderby, led by a young actor/activist.
Stubington also went on the road around B.C. with her last puppet play, Dream, which she co-created with El Salvadorian actor/activist Zompopo Flores.
Other recipients of Okanagan Arts Awards included Okanagan Symphony music director and conductor Rosemary Thomson for her contribution to music; Wendy Williams for dance; Nathan Flavel, who also won a theatre award; Briar Craig for visual arts; Tracey Bonneau for media arts; Dan Brice for arts educator; Yvonne Topf for supporter of the arts; the Kelowna Community Concert Association for the Central Okanagan Foundation Arts Association Award, and Ken Jubenvill with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
North Okanagan-based nominees that were also up for awards included Vernon-based playwright and Powerhouse Theatre member Michael Poirier, Vernon painter and arts educator Gerald Marchand, and internationally renowned mural artist Michelle Loughery.
More information on the Okanagan Arts Awards is available at www.artsco.ca/awards.