John Murchie


John Murchie

John Murchie

We are pleased to select John Murchie as this year’s recipient of the Strathbutler Award. In over 50 years as an artist, curator, critic and administrator, Murchie has dedicated himself to investigating and generating the necessary conditions for creative possibility.

In his letter of recommendation, Paul Henderson (Director of Struts Gallery) describes Murchie’s art practice as “an adherence to a strict set of parameters…” that paradoxically generate playful,  unexpected results. This way of working extends to Murchie’s influential style of mentorship; non-prescriptive, providing a platform and tools for thought, a space to breathe, and a flexible structure that allows creativity to flourish.

Murchie’s work in the community is an extension of his art. The respect that many hold for his practice and role in the local and national arts ecologies is pervasive and wholeheartedly expressed. Curator Denise Markonish (Senior Curator, MASS MoCA) offers these insights into Murchie’s contributions, stating that it was “apparent just how much of an important resource John is to the artists of Canada and abroad. As Director of Struts, he (was) all for giving artists opportunity – to create, to think, to be, and I can’t think of a more generous act. As a curator, he is not just a colleague and a friend, but someone I look up to, someone who has been able to do it his way for his whole career.”

In their nomination statement, Emily Falvey (Director, Owens Art Gallery) and Andrea Mortson (Artist) write: “Murchie embraced the belief that contemporary art can be critical and influential even while operating on the margins. His approach is both grassroots and inclusive, and his ability to engage and provide ongoing support for artists is routinely described as touchstones for New Brunswick art professionals in their developing careers. Most importantly, he has proven that the ripple effects from a small, rural community can spread nationwide.”

Paul Henderson adds: “More than anything else, John continues to show me a way to be in this world. He is generous, supportive, a fierce advocate for artists rights, and precisely dedicated to his craft and intellectual discourse. His prolific career demonstrates that you can be many things; that there is fluidity between art and curatorial work, between solitary studio or scholarly activity and social engagement, mentorship, and advocacy. His impact on the arts communities of New Brunswick, the Atlantic region, and the country is unparalleled and highly deserving of recognition.”

Murchie’s lifetime of work is a significant part of the cultural ecology of this province, both through his artistic practice and his advocacy for the arts. His is a remarkable career–a way of being–that represents the very best qualities of the Atlantic region: the value of the local as a space of collaboration and community building, fostering respect for diverse ways of thinking and creating, promoting risk and experimentation, and a belief in art in enriching everyday life.