Nova Scotia Masterworks Award announces its 2021 shortlist

Public sculptures and hand-bound books are in the running for the province’s biggest cultural award.

Aaron Collier (right) as Princess Edward in the Masterworks-nominated The Princess Show.

We might’ve been busy during COVID-19 making sourdough or doom scrolling, but Halifax’s creative class kept busy-busy during the pandemic, creating works of art that are thought-provoking, life-affirming and deserving of not only our attention but some serious kudos. Thankfully, the Nova Scotia Masterworks Award (the largest cultural award based in Nova Scotia, open to works in all mediums) agrees, and is armed with a recently announced shortlist of local artworks worth celebrating. While the final award winner—who’ll take home $25,000 in total—won’t be announced until November, all the shortlisted names are worth celebrating in their own right. Here they are.

The Princess Show
“A precisely choreographed and lip-synced performance with a magical projected backdrop of stunning animation, The Princess Show is off-the-wall weird, but never less than a joy to watch,” we wrote back in February 2017, when The Princess Show was staged for the second time, following a Best of The Fest debut at the 2016 Halifax Fringe Festival. Now, Aaron Collier, Deonie Hudson and Richie Wilcox’s play is in the running for the Masterworks, after spawning an equally delightful sequel, The Princess Rules.

A hand-printed, hand-bound, hand-stitched letterpress book chronicling a man’s relationship with the family pet, The Masterworks says that Alexander MacLeod and Andrew Steeves’s book “occupies a unique position at the epicentre of complementary circumstances,” blending modern storytelling with timeless themes and antique production methods.

Described by Masterworks as “a sculptural installation exploring and celebrating the fundamental nature of clay and its relationship with the elements,” Neil Forrest’s shortlisted work examines clay’s natural porous nature not as a problem, but a solution. Forrest is a noted ceramicist and NSCAD professor.

The Sirens’ Calling
The large-scale sculpture, a private commission for the Queen’s Marque building, caught the Masterworks’ jury’s attention for the way it interacts with its location (on the Halifax waterfront). Masterworks calls John Greer’s piece “the pinnacle of public sculpture.”