Margaret Dragu wins Governor General's Award

Martin Lipman photo courtesy of Canada Council for the Arts Margaret Dragu, a Richmond performance artist, is the recipient of a Governor General
Martin Lipman photo courtesy of Canada Council for the Arts Margaret Dragu, a Richmond performance artist, is the recipient of a Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts.
— image credit: Marin Lipman photo/courtesy of Canada Council for the Arts

Richmond performance artist Margaret Dragu has won a Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts, the Canada Council for the Arts announced yesterday in Toronto.

Dragu, a resident of Finn Slough, is among eight winners of the prestigious prize for 2012. All winners receive $25,000 and a special issue medallion from the Royal Canadian Mint.

Throughout her 40-year career, Dragu has made waves with her art in numerous disciplines. She began as a dancer and quickly began working in other art forms to connect directly with the public, exhibiting in galleries and museums to nightclubs and strip malls.

Dragu couldn't be reached yesterday, but in a video interview posted on the Canada Council website, the artist talks of her goal to involve audiences in her performances.

"A lot of people who might not go to art normally will run into art at the community centre, or some other public place like the mall or wherever and get to see art on the fly when they're least expecting it," she said. "There's nothing quite like sharing really deep change, a transformation of some kind, with an audience."

Described by the Canada Council as "eccentric and engaging," Dragu and her many personas—Verb Woman, Lady Justice, Nuestra Senora del Pan—comment on feminism, the environment and social issues.

When she's not performing, Dragu brings her expertise on body and movement to her work as a personal trainer at South Arm Community Centre. She's also an instructor at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.

In 2008 she exhibited at Richmond Art Gallery with Pam Hall. Marginalia: Getting Out of the House explored connection, community, feminism and domesticity.

Richmond Art Gallery director Lynn Beavis nominated Dragu for the prize. In a statement, Beavis said she's pleased Dragu's talent and contributions to performance art have been recognized.

“She has gained the respect of her peers and the many non-artists with whom she works. She really is a national treasure and it is wonderful that she is being honoured in this way.”

Dragu was born in Saskatchewan, and worked in New York City, Montreal and Toronto before landing in Richmond in 1986.

Other winners of the Governor General's prize: Geoffrey James, photographer; Charles Lewton-Brain, artist-goldsmith; Ron Martin, visual artist; Diana Nemiroff, art gallery director and curator; Jan Peacock, visual artist; Royden Rabinowitch, sculptor; and Jana Sterbak, visual artist.

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