1920s Modernism in Montreal: The Beaver Hall Group | 2016 Melva J. Dwyer Award winner / lauréat du prix Melva J. Dwyer

The 2016 Melva J. Dwyer Award winner is 1920s Modernism in Montreal: The Beaver Hall Group, published in 2015 through a partnership of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and Black Dog Publishing in both an English and a French edition. The publication was edited by Jacques des Rochers, curator of Canadian and Quebec Art before 1945 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and Brian Foss, Director of the School for Studies in Art and Culture at Carleton University in Ottawa, to accompany an exhibition of the same name, which they also curated. Contributors include Kristina Huneault, Concordia University, Hélène Sicotte, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), and Esther Trépanier, UQAM.

The Beaver Hall Group was a diverse assortment of like-minded Montreal-based artists, many of whom shared a studio and exhibition space on the city’s Beaver Hall Hill in the early 1920s. Early adopters of new modernist approaches to painting, this collective explored their potential within a variety of genres, including portraits, still life, landscapes, and scenes of urbanity in Montreal—then as now, an industrialized city and one of the busiest ports in the world. To quote curator Brian Foss, “Unlike the Group of Seven’s vast interpretations of Canada’s natural, unblemished backdrops, Beaver Hall Group art featured portraits of contemporary Canadian individuals, rural life and urbanized, populated cityscapes…a progressive vision of what Canadian modern art could be…a distinctly Montreal type of modernism.”

The Beaver Hall Group was also exceptional for their inclusion of female artists as core members, representing half the group’s number. The group was short-lived, but its membership includes some of Canada’s most celebrated painters: Prudence Heyward, A.Y. Jackson, and Edwin Holgate.

The 352-page publication is the most comprehensive study of this group to date, featuring a series of six essays that deal with the social and artistic contexts in which the group was formed, interweaving their work within the broader narratives of the arts in the early 20th century, the rise of the metropolis, the intersection of economic progress with cultural development, and the impact of gender on critical approaches to both the artists and their work.

The text includes high-quality reproductions of the members’ works—some well-known, but others not previously reproduced. These effectively convey the group’s innovative use of color that a contemporary reviewer compared to the jazz music of the time: “not harmonious tones but colours that dazzle like the screech of a trumpet.” As well as documenting the exhibition, this catalogue includes a rich collection of contextual illustrations, exhibition invitations, press coverage, maps, film stills, and photographs.

Almost no documentation of the Beaver Hall Group survived, and what did was difficult to locate. The contributors’ intensive research is demonstrated in the publication’s bibliography that excels at representing archival and other sources, supplemented by indexes to artist and institutional entries and a list of works. The end matter includes bibliographies of 29 artists, an appendix of exhibitions by artists linked to the Beaver Hall Group from 1920-33, and tables demonstrating shared experience in education, travel, and awards.

The award committee recommends this essential exhibition catalogue not only for Canadian visual arts libraries, but for all libraries with an interest in urban and cultural history.

This award was established in recognition of the contribution made to the field of art librarianship by Melva J. Dwyer, former head of the Fine Arts Library, University of British Columbia. It is given annually to the creators of exceptional reference or research tools relating to Canadian art and architecture. The 2016 award was presented at the convocation ceremony of the 44th Annual ARLIS/NA Conference in Seattle, Washington, on March 11, 2016. The members of the 2016 Melva J. Dwyer Award Committee are: Sylvia Roberts, Simon Fraser University (chair); Jennifer Garland, McGill University; Philip Dombowsky, National Gallery of Canada; and Daniel Payne, OCAD University.

2015 Melva J. Dwyer Award Winner / lauréat du prix Melva J. Dwyer

The 2015 Melva J. Dwyer Award winner is Landscape Architecture in Canada, written by Ron Williams, published in 2014, in English by the McGill-Queens University Press and in French by les Presses de l’Université de Montréal.   The 2015 award was presented at the convocation ceremony of the 43rd Annual ARLIS/NA Conference in Fort Worth, Texas on March 22, 2015.

 Landscape Architecture in Canada is a comprehensive overview of man-made landscapes across Canada, both as cultural expressions and as environments that shape our actions.   Fifteen years in the making, this critical history covers the varied traditions and impacts of Canada’s first peoples, its early colonists and later immigrant communities, the landscape innovations of nineteenth-century industrial cities and suburban modernism, the protected natural environments of national parks as well as efforts to mitigate the impact of resource extraction on the land.

Ron Williams, a faculty member and former director of the School of Landscape Architecture at the Université de Montréal, is a practicing architect and landscape architect.  His experience underscores the people and projects that defined landscape architecture in Canada, their motivations, aspirations and the intellectual climate in which they worked.

Thoroughly researched, engagingly written and well organized, this book is valuable both as a research and a reference work.  It includes extensive footnotes, bibliography and indexes. One unique feature is the glossary of all the plants mentioned in the text, giving the botanical name and both French and English equivalents. The awards committee recommends this publication not only for Canadian art and architecture libraries but for all libraries with an interest in landscape as an artifact of social, cultural and economic histories.

“Beautifully written and organized, Landscape Architecture in Canada makes a major contribution to landscape architecture and its related fields – architecture, planning, geography, art history, environmental history, and environmental studies. A first of its kind, this book is a must for all Canadian landscape architects and their students.” Susan Herrington, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, University of British Columbia

Choice Online (December 2014) described “an interdisciplinary masterpiece overflowing with informative diagrams, maps, and most importantly, original photographs enthusiastically rendered by the author during visits to every corner of the country. Natural and human diversity have left their lasting marks on Canada, and the book treats readers to insights into this complicated palimpsest through inspired, well-researched examples of forest and farm, city and town, park and pasture, and church and fort. It expands the boundaries of landscape architecture and provides this already complex discipline with new depth. Highly recommended.”

The award committee recognizes another strong submission with an honourable mention:  Charles Edenshaw, co-published in 2013 by Black Dog and the Vancouver Art Gallery in conjunction with a survey exhibition that assembled more than 200 pieces from public and private collections around the world.   Edited by Daina Augaitis, Robin Wright and Jim Hart,  this exceptionally beautiful catalogue is  the first major monograph on the work of Edenshaw, an extraordinary Haida artist and an iconic figure in Northwest Coast  art, active in the 19th and early 20th century. Richly illustrated with colored photographs, accompanied by interviews that provide perspectives on his art and writings that explore Edenshaw’s legacy and influence on contemporary artists, this title is essential for anyone with an interest in Northwest Coast art.

My thanks to the members of the 2015 Melva J. Dwyer Award Committee:  Liv Valmstead, University of Manitoba; Hillary Webb, Emily Carr University of Art and Design; Melinda Reinhart, Concordia University.

Sylvia Roberts, Chair,  2015 Melva J. Dwyer Award Committee, ARLIS/NA Canadian Member-at-large and chair of the ARLIS/NA Canadian chapter

2014 Melva J. Dwyer Award Winner/ lauréat du prix Melva J. Dwyer


The Melva J. Dwyer Award committee received 11 nominations: each publication presented such uniquely valuable contributions to Canadian art, design, architecture and visual culture studies that it made for a challenging evaluation process. Despite this, there was unified consensus that one title stood out as truly representing an “exceptional reference or research tool relating to Canadian art and architecture” and the jury unanimously chose to confer the 2014 Melva J. Dwyer Award to:

Native Art of the Northwest Coast: A History of Changing Ideas  edited by Charlotte Townsend-Gault, Jennifer Kramer, and  Ki-ke-in [kih-keh-in]. published by the University of British Columbia Press, 2013. 

The 2014 jurors included:

  • Claire Parker,  Visual Resources Librarian, Western University,
  • Sylvia Roberts,  Liaison Librarian for Communication & Contemporary Arts Simon Fraser University,
  • Rebecca Young, University Librarian, NSCAD University

Each juror was riveted by the integrity and authenticity of the thirty essays included in this anthology, the rigorous indexing, the awe-inspiring breadth and scope of the content and, most compellingly, how the overall thematic structure of the work represents a holistic Indigenous worldview.

This is not a standard “reference” publication emanating from the European enlightenment tradition. Native Art of the Northwest Coastsubtly questions modes of organization grounded in either chronological or subject-based ordering, by employing a conceptual structure rooted in Indigenous narrative practice. Perhaps most indicative of this impulse is the inclusion of an introductory chapter by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas who presents a Haida manga depiction of Indigenous cosmology and consciousness.

Each ensuing chapter features expository essays that are used to contextualize the numerous historical transcripts transcribed in each section.  These testimonials are expansive in scope, giving voice to a diverse array of observers and participants, both Native and non-Native, including elders, artists, activists, anthropologists, curators, art historians, legal experts, among many others. Presenting this narrative frame around primary source material creates a dialogic authorial voice that guides readers through the challenging work of confronting Western European preconceptions about art, culture and history.  For, above all, the central thread running through each chapter is a plea to those of us looking at Northwest Coast art to move beyond a one-dimensional viewing experience and, instead, begin listening to the story of the artwork.  In short, instead of just using your eyes, use your ears.

Native Art of the Northwest Coast is a product of over 10 years of research and offers a comprehensive review of 250 years of historical literature.  The essays featured in this 1,000 page publication are all-encompassing covering topics such as the evolution of the Northwest Coast art market, the deployment of Native art for Canadian nationalist purposes, the influence of First Nation’s culture on surrealist thinking, and the recent explosion of Indigenous voices in new media production.   An exhaustive index not only supports expected access and searchablity features, but is a work of art in its own right, as it provides the ethical framework for the entirety of the thirty essays. The predominance of indexed entries that offer conceptually expressive themes–such as Access, Agency, Collaboration, Culture, Dance, Objects, Ownership, Power, to name a few–might seem unexpectedly poetic for a reference tome, but are, in fact, critical for providing the Indigenous values that tangibly bind together the diversity of material presented in the essays.

The subtitle “A history of changing ideas,” is significant as well:  in many First Nations’ cultures foundational stories are not mythic narratives frozen in some chronologically distant past, but are, in fact, “animate”; stories change over time by revealing new essential truths and meanings as they are told and re-told in different cultural or historical contexts.  This phenomenological approach is the embodiment of an oral cultural conceptualization of the world; a stance rooted in a knowledgebase that emanates from the intersection of empirical observation, fact, metaphor, intuition, conceptual thinking and, above all, is only achieved through dialogue and consensus among interlocutors.

In this light, Native Art of the Northwest Coast truly embodies a post-colonial voice, by taking the genre of “reference” and re-framing it through the lens of Indigenous “ways of knowing.”  It is a fitting tribute to this award winning title that the theme of the 42nd ARLIS/NA conference is “Art+Politics.”

Accepting the award was:

  • Mr. Paul Chaat Smith of the Comanche First Nation. He is an associate curator from the National Museum of the American Indian and was a founding editor of the American Indian Movement’s Treaty Council News. In addition to the essay he wrote forNative Art of the Northwest Coast, he has  coauthored the seminal text Like a Hurricane: The Indian Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee (New York: New Press, 1996) and is author of Everything You Know about Indians Is Wrong (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009).
  • D. Vanessa Kam, Acting Head Librarian, Music + Art + Architecture Library at the University of British Columbia.

Presented on Saturday 3 May 2014 at:

  • ARLIS/NA 42nd annual conference Convocation,
  • The Library of Congress (Thomas Jefferson Building).

Presented by:

Daniel Payne, Canadian Member-at-Large (2012 – 14)
Head, Instructional Services,
Dorothy H. Hoover Library, OCAD University

2013 Melva J. Dwyer Award Winner/ lauréat du prix Melva J. Dwyer

The Melva J. Dwyer Award committee received 15 nominations this year representing a diverse range of subjects on Canadian art, architecture and design; we were all pleased to view such a dynamic array of publications chronicling our national artistic and cultural heritage.  One title, however, stood out as truly representing an “exceptional reference or research tool relating to Canadian art and architecture”

ARLIS/NA Canada is pleased to confer the 2013 Melva J. Dwyer Award to IAIN BAXTER&: Works 1958–2011; a publication that accompanied an international exhibition held at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Featuring more than 160 reproductions, it also includes essays by the exhibition co-curators David Moos  and Michael Darling, as well as contributions by Lucy Lippard among others. A noteworthy feature is the comprehensive bibliography compiled by ARLIS/NA member Adam Lauder of York University.

The integrity of the critical essays, high quality art reproductions, academically sound citations, rigorous indexing, innovative nature of the publication’s “Narrative Chronology,” and authoritative bibliography all make this a publication of unique value for researchers in Canada and beyond.

The 2013 jurors included:

  • Adrienne Connelly, Librarian, Alberta College of Art + Design
  • Élise Lassonde, Bibliothécaire, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec
  • Linda Morita, Librarian/Archivist, McMichael Canadian Art Collection

A motivating rationale for the jury was how clearly the publication chronicles BAXTER&’s unique oeuvre, placing the artist as a prescient pioneer of relational aesthetics and other 21st century movements that strive to open a democratic dialogue over the art market, value theory, curatorial control and power paradigms embedded in aesthetics overall.

These philosophical goals are nothing new to BAXTER& as, for over 50 years, he has radically redefined the role of the artist and purposely defied the limitations of medium by effortlessly integrating  painting, drawing,  photography, installation, sculpture, and performative aspects into his work.

 Despite the provocative nature of this re-signification of the role of the artist; BAXTER&’s creative process is never confrontational but, instead, is nourished by empathy, concern, playfulness, humour  and is always founded in an unwavering sense of collegiality with his audience

 This collaborative ethos has led to a particular sense of play in how he represents himself to the world: he has worked under various monikers throughout his career, including N.E. Thing Co., a corporate-style organization in which he served as co-president.  In this guise, he blurred the two solitudes of private vs. public with an astoundingly creative number of initiatives including sponsoring a youth hockey team, hosting a game of “Monopoly with Real Money” played in a Toronto Dominion banking hall and being hired by Labatt’s Brewing Company in 1981 as a creative consultant “artist in residence.”  His own name has metamorphosed over the decades: often he is known as “McCoolman,” but always “the &man.” Since 1983, he has joined forces with Mrs. &man, artist Louise Chance.  As the ultimate example of his collective spirit: his online catalogue rasionnE is NOT a linear, chronological representation of only HIS works, but instead encourages a cacophonous “piling on” of artworks by welcoming user-generated content.  This open source approach to his name became formalized in 2005 when he legally added an ampersand to his surname.

The ampersand, in fact, has been a recurring symbol throughout his oeuvre, which, for librarians well-versed in Boolean searching techniques, gives him an especial position of fondness and esteem. Although in practice, this fluidity in self-identification leads to perplexing cataloguing gymnastics in maintaining name authorities. I might add that the Getty’s Union List of Artist Names still lists the artist FORMERLY KNOWN AS Iain Baxter!!   But in an ironic turn, librarians are essentially unable to recognize his new identity: to use the ampersand in a library catalogue search yields an error message due to “an unexpected end of clause,” a situation that I’m sure would delight the &man!

In closing, I will let David Moos explain the enduring nature of the artist’s work:  “BAXTER&’s thinking resonates today because his willingness to experiment remains undiminished…It is here, between originality and the familiar, that one finds BAXTER&, raising our awareness that art is an experiment—an embrace [that] one must experience.”

Presented on Sunday 28 April 2013 at the ARLIS/NA 41st annual conference Convocation, Pasadena Civic Auditorium by:

Daniel Payne, Canadian Member-at-Large (2012 – 14)
Head, Instructional Services,
Dorothy H. Hoover Library, OCAD University


BAXTER&, IAIN. “artist’s message.”  IAINBAXTER&raisonnE…York University Libraries: Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections online exhibits. Web. http://archives.library.yorku.ca/iain_baxterand_raisonne/archive/files/b…

Bourriaud, Nicolas. Relational Aesthetics, trans. Simon Pleasance, Fronza Woods and Mathieu Copeland. Dijon: Les presses du réel, 2002. Print.

Canadian Art. “Iain Baxter&: Ampersand, Mon Amour.” Canadian Art Magazine (6 Nov. 2008). Web http://www.canadianart.ca/see-it/2008/11/06/iain-baxter/  

“Iain BAXTER&.” The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art. Web. http://ccca.concordia.ca/

“IAIN BAXTER&: Works 1958-2011 (March 3 – August 12, 2012).”  Art Gallery of Ontario. Web http://www.ago.net/theandman

IAINBAXTER&raisonnE … l i v E … & … the&MAN. Web Blog. http://andraisonne.blogspot.ca/ 

2012 Melva Dwyer Award Winner

The 2012 Melva J. Dwyer Award goes to Francois-Marc Gagnon, Nancy Senior, and Réal Ouellet, for The Codex Canadensis, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press in 2011.

The Melva J. Dwyer Award was established in recognition of the contribution made to the field of art librarianship by Melva Dwyer, former head of the Fine Arts Library, University of British Columbia.  It is given to the creators of exceptional reference or research tools relating to Canadian art and architecture.

The 2012 award was administered by James Rout, Chair of ARLIS/NA Canada, and a jury that consisted of Vanessa Kam, University of British Columbia,  David Payne, OCAD University, and John Latour, Artexte. This year, 12 nominations were received for the award.

In the words of the jury, “The Codex Canadensis is a remarkable publication through and through. The image reproductions are exemplary and the overall contribution to our knowledge of the visual and material culture of the early colonial mindset is invaluable. The rigorous and meticulous detail of their notations and descriptions of the document demonstrate their authority in an unquestionable manner.”

2011 Melva Dwyer Award Winner

The 2011 Melva J. Dwyer Award goes to the Ontario Art Gallery and Douglas & McIntyre (co-publishers), and Gerald McMaster (editor), for Inuit Modern: Art from the Samuel and Esther Sarick Collection, published in November 2010.

The Melva J. Dwyer Award was established in recognition of the contribution made to the field of art librarianship by Melva Dwyer, former head of the Fine Arts Library, University of British Columbia.  It is given to the creators of exceptional reference or research tools relating to Canadian art and architecture.

The 2011 award was administered by James Rout, Chair of ARLIS/NA Canada, and a jury that consisted of Larissa Beringer, Emily Carr University of Art + Design,  Tanja Harrison, NSCAD University, and Jennifer Garland, McGill University. This year, 13 nominations were received for the award.

In the words of the jury, Inuit Modern sheds new light on the cultural resilience of Inuit artists, situating its major themes within the context of a rapidly changing Arctic. It considers how Inuit have dealt with the rapid transition from a traditional lifestyle to the current challenges of globalization and climate change. It includes scholarly essays by art historians and curators of Inuit art, as well as artist and author biographies, extensive notes, and a comprehensive list of the works in the exhibition together with a complete index.

Full colour photographs of all of the art works are included in this publication, including sculpture, prints, inlay, drawing, stonecuts and textile reproductions. The jury agreed that these images were exceptional high quality reproductions, considering the range of media covered, making it an essential visual reference tool for further research and study on contemporary Inuit art practice, and highlighting the book’s importance as a resource for librarians, art historians, artists and cultural anthropologists.

2010 Melva J. Dwyer Award Winner

This year’s winner of the Melva J. Dwyer Award is Dr. Oliver Botar for Andor Weininger: A Bauhausler in Canada, published by the Robert McLaughlin Gallery,  2009.   This book, which accompanied the exhibition A Bauhausler in Canada: Andor Weininger in the ’50s at  the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (May 9 – June 28, 2009) are the only Canadian contributions to a major series of exhibitions, conferences and publications on both sides of the Atlantic celebrating the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany.

The Melva J. Dwyer Award was established in recognition of the contribution made to the field of art librarianship by Melva Dwyer, former head of the Fine Arts Library, University of British Columbia.  It is given to the creators of exceptional reference or research tools relating to Canadian art and architecture.

The 2009/10 award was administered by me Liv Valmestad, Chair of ARLIS/NA Canada, and a jury that consisted of Eva Revitt, Grant MacEwen University,  James Rout, the Banff Centre Library and Cyndie Campbell, National Gallery of Canada.  I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone on the jury for their efficient work and thoughtful deliberations.

This year, eleven nominations were received, including one web site The Historical Canadian Women Artists: A Bio-bibliographic Database, located on the Canadian Women Artists History Initiative (CWAHI) website at http://cwahi.concordia.ca/ , 2007, co-authored by Arlisian Melinda Reinhardt, Concordia University.  This site is a fantastic initiative and is an artist database that includes over 300 entries of women artists with biographical information, educational background, association memberships, locations and holdings of artist files and bibliographies throughout Canada. This initiative was given Honourable Mention for this year’s Melva Dwyer award.

The winning entry, A Bauhausler in Canada: Andor Weininger in the ‘50s, documents the life of Hungarian-born Andor Weininger (1899-1986), a recognized figure at the Bauhaus, the most influential art and design school of the 20th century. After his arrival to Toronto in 1951, it seemed as though he would integrate into the burgeoning city’s emergent Modernist art scene, but after initial successes, Weininger’s Canadian career faltered and soon after receiving Canadian citizenship in 1957, Weininger and his family moved on to New York City. Since the 1960s his works have been included in many major international exhibitions. His art is represented in the collections of the MOMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Busch-Reisinger Museum at Harvard University, and in a number of European collections.

With its excellent scholarship, this book reveals that despite his marginalization in Toronto, Weininger enjoyed his most productive years as an artist in Canada, resulting in an inventive, highly eclectic and often strikingly beautiful oeuvre. The recovery of this oeuvre to Canadian art began when the foundation set up in his memory donated important groups of his work to The Art Gallery of Ontario, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery and Gallery One One One at the University of Manitoba. In this volume, Dr. Oliver Botar both documents these donations and takes a close look at Weininger in Canada, and discusses the shifting loyalties of Canadian abstract artists during the 50s and adds to the history of Canadian Modernism.

 In the jury’s words, this book was “the complete package.”  The jury was very impressed with both book’s comprehensiveness and the high quality of its layout and presentation.  Not only does it contain endnotes, an index and bibliography, but it also includes a chronology of Weininger’s life and a catalogue of all of his art works housed in Canadian collections.   The book itself is beautifully designed and presented.  Tasteful colour combinations are used in the table of contents and chapter pages.  The colour photographs are of excellent quality presented in both full colour plates and also in smaller sizes, which dot the margins of the text throughout the book.