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This article was published 18/3/2010 (4323 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
William Eakin is a good example of how the spirit of an artist can be defined by the landscape of their childhood.
Eakin was recently named the eighth recipient of the Manitoba Arts Council’s Manitoba Arts Award of Distinction.
The $30,000 award is presented annually and recognizes the highest level of artistic excellence and distinguished career achievements by a professional Manitoba artist. Previous winners include filmmaker Guy Maddin, who received the award in 2005.
Eakin, who spent a significant portion of his childhood in Fort Garry after living the first three years of life in St. Boniface, emphasized how the two rivers that divide southwest Winnipeg helped shape his mental landscape.
"Winnipeg was founded at the crossing of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, which goes back to the very beginning," said Eakin, whose prolific photographic career spans four decades.
Eakin said the eclectic nature of the Winnipeg landscape has had an important influence on his career.
"In part, it’s the isolation of being in the centre. In part, it’s the four distinct seasons. In part, it’s the vibrancy. As Winnipeggers, we’ve developed an innate sense of self-worth and vibrancy," he said.
Eakin’s connection to Fort Garry also extends to a lecturing stint at the University of Manitoba’s School of Fine Art.
As a professional artist, Eakin has had his work placed in national collections at venues such as the National Photography Collection in Canada’s Public Archives in Ottawa, the Edmonton Art Gallery and the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre Yellowknife.
Internationally, his work has been shown in places as diverse as the Netherlands, Australia and Japan.
One of Eakin’s seminal works is entitled Night Garden.
"Each object depicted is one of a collection of cookie tins I’ve built up from the 1950s," said Eakin, who also lived in St. James before eventually finding his current base in the Exchange District.
"An object like that has inherent value, particularly the round ones that depict photographs of flowers. Ultimately, I like to think of Night Garden as a kind of poetic illusion."
In terms of his latest award, Eakin is humbled by the recognition.
"It’s an honour to get this award, not least because it’s for lifetime achievement. The most satisfying thing for me is being recognized for the totality of my work, especially considering the impressive list of past winners," Eakin said.
One of the leading voices of the Manitoba Arts Council praised Eakin, noting the award is not based on a grant application and is judged by a cross-section of artistic peers after two people have nominated the eventual winner.
"Aside from a high standard of quality, the award recognizes someone of national and international status who has stretched beyond our borders," said Douglas Riske, executive director of Manitoba Arts Council.
And despite 40 years of adventure and creation, Eakin remains close to the local arts community.
Many of them will be at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on March 18 to join him at a reception to mark his Manitoba Arts Council’s Manitoba Arts Award of Distinction.
Simon Fuller is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 204-697-7111.