Today, it is our distinct honor to announce the recipient of the 2023 Cultural Arts Award, which recognizes the leadership of women in the arts, including music, dance, design, and film, and this year, it gives us great pleasure to present this award to Jean Bridge.
Over the course of a remarkable career spanning four decades, Jean has not only enriched the cultural tapestry of Niagara but also touched the hearts and minds of countless people through her unwavering dedication and creativity.
Jean has proven herself to be an outstanding visual artist, an inspiring art educator, and an ardent champion for the Niagara cultural community. Her name is synonymous with artistic excellence, and her work has been exhibited both within the borders of Canada and on the international stage. Her portfolio is as diverse as it is impressive, covering a wide array of media, from traditional paintings to digital masterpieces. Her artworks grace the collections of numerous prestigious public art galleries, museums, and corporations.
What truly sets Jean apart is her unyielding commitment to education. She has shared her expertise and passion for visual art with students at several esteemed institutions, including the Ottawa School of Art, Sheridan College, Ontario College of Art and Design University, and Brock University. During her twenty-year tenure at Brock University, she held leadership roles that included chairing the Department of Visual Art, the Centre for Arts and Culture, and the Centre for Digital Humanities. Her crowning achievement during this period was the creation of the Interactive Arts and Science program, a groundbreaking initiative that prepared students for careers in the ever-evolving world of video games.
Jean has also played a pivotal role in promoting student mobility by conducting research and practice to enhance credit transfers between colleges and universities. In 2005, she co-founded nGen, the Niagara Interactive Media Generator, an innovative business incubator that laid the foundation for what would later become Innovate Niagara.
Her commitment to the community goes beyond the realm of academia. In 2016, she led the efforts to transition Rodman Hall Art Centre from Brock University back into community hands. Despite the challenges, her determination shone through, leading to the establishment of the Rodman Art Institute of Niagara. Under her guidance, this organization has thrived, securing the art collection, digitizing it for public access, and working diligently to create a new public art gallery for Niagara. The Rodman Art Institute of Niagara is now on the verge of opening a new temporary space in downtown St. Catharines, where they will present exhibitions and events for the public.
As a visual artist, Jean firmly believes that the role of an artist extends beyond creating objects; it is about transforming the way people think and feel about the world around them. Her goal is to foster curiosity and questioning that leads to lasting change in the hearts and minds of those around her. She enlists her fellow humans in the shared mission of making the world a better place, an ethos that has driven her work in establishing a new and innovative platform for the presentation of visual art in all its forms.
Her tireless efforts in preserving the legacy of Rodman Hall Art Centre and creating a new public art gallery have been nothing short of extraordinary. She has chaired various organizations, founded alliances, and worked tirelessly to secure the art collection and lay the groundwork for a vibrant future. Her dedication and unrelenting commitment have brought together a diverse group of individuals, each contributing their unique skills and backgrounds to help her achieve this monumental task.
Today, it is with great pleasure that we celebrate the remarkable achievements of Jean Bridge. Her passion, leadership, and unwavering commitment to the arts in Niagara have left an indelible mark on our community. She has dedicated her entire professional life to the systematic and methodical work of re-establishing a public art gallery, believing that our community’s culture is incomplete without one. Her efforts are firmly grounded in the belief that a robust and professional public art gallery will significantly contribute to the economic and social well-being of the community.
In recognition of her outstanding contributions, it is my privilege to announce Jean Bridge as the winner of the Cultural Arts Award. Her legacy will continue to inspire and shape the cultural landscape of Niagara for generations to come. Please join me in congratulating Jean for her unwavering dedication to the arts and her remarkable achievements.