Salt Spring National Art Prize: A Juror's Point of View
SSNAP Jury Member Helga Pakasaar.

Salt Spring National Art Prize: A Juror's Point of View

The Salt Spring National Art Prize (SSNAP), Salt Spring, BC - Sep 23 - Oct 23

by Michael Turner

The 2023 Salt Spring National Art Prize exhibition features a long list of 52 artists chosen from 2,158 entries, with prizes to be awarded at SSNAP’s Closing Gala and Awards on October 21. This year’s jury is comprised of Kwakwaka’wakw artist Richard Hunt, Montreal gallerist Pierre François Ouellette, Wexner Centre for the Arts executive director Gäetane Verna, and Vancouver curator Helga Pakasaar, who recently left the Polygon Gallery after 21 years, and who consented to a quick, slightly abridged interview.

Preview: Your specialty is photography, but you’ve curated work in other media. Are there any standards that apply across the board when assessing a work of art?

Helga Pakasaar: When assessing works of art submitted to SSNAP from flat digital images, it was critical to imagine the materiality of each object in order to consider intentionality and relevance in terms of each artist’s chosen medium.

Preview: Some of Canada’s more recent visual art awards seem as much about where they’re from (region, communities) as what they have to offer (prizes, exhibitions). SSNAP is now in its eighth year. What are they doing right?

Pakasaar: Firstly, they avoid initial judgements based on regions, communities, schooling and accomplishments by keeping submissions completely anonymous during the initial jurying stages. This refreshing approach creates a democratic field from which to consider an eclectic array of thousands of amateur and professional artworks, as well as objects not necessarily called art, from across the country. The fact that the final selection of prizes is in response to seeing works installed and through in-person discussion amongst the jurors is very important to maintain. SSNAP’s cheerful attitude to expediting such an inherently cumbersome process and the mushrooming number of submittals is impressive.

Opening reception Sep 23, 6-8pm

Closing Gala and Awards Oct 21, 6-9pm

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