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Canada’s Grange Prize for photography undergoes a makeover

British artist Jo Longhurst is shown in a handout photo. British artist Jo Longhurst won the Grange Prize, Canada's largest photography award, which comes with a $50,000 cheque in 2012.


The Grange Prize, since 2008 one of Canada's top awards for excellence in contemporary photography here and abroad, is undergoing a name change, revising its nominating procedures and adding a formal education component. The changes were announced on Monday in Toronto by the prize's partners, the Art Gallery of Ontario and Aimia.

Henceforth, the prize will be known as the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize and will distribute more than $85,000 in cash to photographers annually. The top prize is still worth $50,000, with three runners-up earning $5,000 each, but the expanded award now includes a scholarship component valued at more than $20,000.

The scholarship program is aimed at supporting full-time students who are entering their final year of study toward a bachelor's degree of fine arts in photography. Eight postsecondary institutions have signed up to participate. Each school will select one student through an internal competition, then forward his or her name to a jury, which will pick three students (out of the eight) to receive a scholarship covering their final year's tuition.

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Meanwhile, the prize itself – originally named after the early-19th-century Georgian manor house, just south of the AGO, that served as the first home of the Art Museum of Toronto beginning in 1910 – is adopting a more international perspective.

Previously, a nominating jury from Canada and one partner country would assemble to select a roster of artists. Last year, for example, there were four finalists, two from Britain and the balance from Canada. (Previous partner countries have been China, Mexico, India and the United States.) For 2013, eight "leading Canadian and international experts in photography" will name a long list of 16 nominees. From this pool, a three-person jury, headed by an AGO curator, will choose four finalists, at least one of whom will be Canadian..

As before, the public will be invited to vote online for its favourite finalist and thereby decide the winner. AGO director and chief executive officer Matthew Teitelbaum said this tradition will continue in 2013 and beyond because "we think it's a pretty bold and directional way for a public institution to engage the public … and get more people involved." For the 2012 prize, almost 20,000 votes were cast, resulting in Britain's Jo Longhurst the winner.

The long list is to be revealed in mid-July, with the finalists announced Aug. 27. The short-listed artists will be featured in an exhibition at the AGO running Sept. 11 through Jan. 5, 2014. The winner will be announced Nov. 7.

Other postsecondary institutions are expected to join the scholarship program, but for now the participants are OCAD University in Toronto, Ryerson University in Toronto, Concordia Uni-versity in Montreal, Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University in Halifax, the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary, the University of Quebec in Quebec City and the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

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James More


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