Benefactors Dick and Gretchen Evans announce Photography fellowship
The 11th floor reception area of Concordia's Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex was fittingly transformed into a mini photo and art gallery June 10 for a celebration of the Dick and Gretchen Evans Fellowship for Photography worth $51,000.
Dick Evans, former chief executive of Montreal-based aluminum giant Rio Tinto Alcan, announced that for the next three years starting in spring 2011, one outstanding Faculty of Fine Arts student in the final year of his/her graduate Photography program will receive a $17,000 fellowship.
He said that he and his wife, Gretchen, chose to support education for two reasons: his mother, sister, grandfather and daughter were all teachers and "when we did the research, it became quite clear that Concordia has the best visual arts program in Quebec and also has the best photography program."
Gretchen Evans added that the arts have the power to unite people from differing cultures. "We need to understand each other better and I feel the arts provide a road for that," she said.
Kathy Assayag, VP Advancement and Alumni Relations, welcomed and thanked the couple for helping to further the pursuit of academic excellence. "Private support like this can make a huge difference for our students. It gives them peace of mind so they can focus on their creativity," Assayag told the 70 or so guests gathered for the cocktail reception.
David Graham, Concordia Provost and VP of Academic Affairs, echoed Assayag's sentiments and stressed the importance of such funding by saying that there is "no higher priority than graduate support."
Dick Evans, also an avid amateur photographer, has partnered with photographer Bob Hendriks to launch Montreal-based In Transit Images, an online gallery created by photographers for photographers to showcase and sell their images. Evans also announced that the fellowship will be funded by half of In Transit's profits.
To kick off the fellowship, the Evans's created the one-time Dick and Gretchen Evans Prize for Photography and presented Aydin Matlabi, BFA 07, with a $6,000 mock cheque.
The 11th floor reception area displayed photographs of Matlabi and Dick Evans, as well as two of Gretchen Evans's paintings.
"Aydin has an outstanding track record and is recognized at Concordia and in the community," Dick Evans said of Matlabi, who was selected by a jury of six Concordia Photography professors.
Matlabi, who will receive an MFA in Studio Arts June 23 at Concordia's convocation ceremonies, said he was pleasantly surprised to learn that he had received the cash prize, which he plans to put toward producing more works.
The Iranian-born photographer has returned to his native country several times, including during its political upheaval in June 2009. "One thing that I see when I visit people struggling in different countries is that hope is the most important thing for them," said Matlabi, who then pointed to the mock cheque and added, "To me, this cheque is hope."
Fine Arts Dean Catherine Wild wrapped up the festivities by pointing out that the gift will provide much-needed funding to graduating students like Matlabi, who are transitioning into their careers. "The leap of faith you have made in supporting us will allow our students to make a leap of faith to become artists," said Wild. "The visual arts are what we're renowned for, and I think we can also say that we have the best photography program in the country."
Read more about Matlabi and his experiences in Iran, and view some of his photographs in the Concordia University Magazine's spring issue.
Photo credit: Vincenzo D'Alto