Longtime Oak Bay resident and famed artist Pat Martin Bates is the unanimous choice as the inaugural Acorn Arts Award winner.
The Acorn Arts Award recognizes a living artist, group or institution which has made an outstanding contribution to the arts in Oak Bay. The award is administered by Oak Bay Parks, Recreation and Culture, as adjudicated by the Oak Bay Arts Laureate and the Public Art Committee.
“She’s such a deserving recipient, being a nationally recognized artist,” said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen. “Being familiar with her art, I think it’s a very fitting choice. Her work has been seen as really leading-edge amongst Canadian art critics. Being local, she was an obvious choice for the first award.”
A native of New Brunswick, Bates (affectionately called PMB by peers) studied art there at Mt. Allison University and later at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Antwerp, Belgium. In the 1960s her association with Canadian Art Magazine, alongside editor and mentor Alan Jarvis and the National Gallery of Canada connected her with outstanding artists globally. Her innovative print-making techniques, involving deep embossing and piercing of the paper, brought her many honours, including the gold medal at the International Biennale of Prints in Fredrikstad, Norway in 1985. In places as far afield as Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, Rajastan, India and Kyoto, Japan, she is known as “Lady Print.”
“Pat Martin Bates is the senior artist of this region,” said fellow Oak Bay artist Robert Amos. “Her revolutionary advances in printmaking are recognized around the world, the crown of a long and adventurous career. But that work is little known and not well-understood in her home town.”
Coming to Victoria in 1964, Bates was a formative teacher in the first years of the University of Victoria, and founded the Signal Hill Creative Centre (now XChanges Gallery) and also the Community Arts Council of Greater Victoria. Her long career as an educator culminated in the first Excellence in Teaching award (1991) and an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, both in recognition of her long service at UVic.
Students from all over the world continue to value her inspiring example. Bates was an original member of The Limners, a core gathering of Victoria’s leading modern artists. More recently, a four-month exhibition of her “light boxes” was hosted by the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in 2005, and resulted in the lavishly illustrated biography, Balancing on a Thread, by Patricia Bovey (Frontenac House, Calgary, 2014).
Bates’ active community service is also wide, including the Zonta group which promotes the advancement of young women, and the University Women’s Club. She is the founder of Victoria Visual Arts Legacy Society.
“As one of the Limners art group and the Painters at Painter’s Lodge event she has had a position which cannot be matched in our art hierarchy,” Amos said.
“It is with an entire generation or two of artists who have been her students – mostly at University of Victoria, since 1964 – that her local legacy lies,” Amos said. “In particular, she has been an inspiration to young women, many of who have gone on to celebrated careers. Personally, Pat Martin Bates has made a habit of attending all manner of art events to support creative people young and old, and her presence at the Bowker Creek Brush-Up has always been the high point of that annual event.”
Now in her 90th year, Bates continues her extensive correspondence and event attendance.
“She’s an excellent representative for what we’re trying to accomplish here in Oak Bay and that is raise the awareness of the wonderful artists we have here,” Jensen said. “Oak Bay is a very arty community, we have six galleries within a couple of short blocks; we have many art collectors in our community and certainly art lovers. It is a recognition that we have some fantastic artists right here in our back yard.”
The award includes a recognition ceremony with municipal council and an Acorn bespoke keepsake.