Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory hopes Sobey Art Award win inspires Inuit youth
Bathory says $100,000 cash prize will go towards caring for her children and family
Less than 48 hours after winning the Sobey Art Award, Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory says she’s still processing the excitement of taking home one of Canada’s top contemporary art prizes.
When her name was announced at the awards ceremony at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa on Saturday, the Iqaluit-based artist said she was overcome with laughter and joy. In a Monday afternoon interview, she said the weight and significance of the award have begun to sink in.
“It was such a big moment to speak to the children of this country, not just all children, but also the thousands and thousands of Indigenous children killed at residential schools and at the actual soil and foundation of this country,” she said.
Gov. Gen. Mary May Simon attended the Saturday award show, where she spoke to Bathory in Inuktitut. Bathory was also the second Inuit artist to win the Sobey Art Award, 15 years after Annie Pootoogook became the first.
Bathory says she hopes that young Inuit artists see the progress that has been made, adding that they deserve to feel valued.
“You need to create art, and it is viable to make art,” she said. “We’ll all continue to make sure that it is even more possible for young people to create art, especially with themselves, and their cultures, and their surroundings.”
As a part of the prize, Bathory was awarded $100,000. The four other shortlisted nominees earned $25,000 each, and the 20 long list candidates earned $10,000 each.
Bathory says she plans on putting her prize to use by caring for her family and her home in Iqaluit.
“I’m so proud I’m able to provide for my family by being an artist,” she said. “I’ve got three kids and a house, and an extremely high cost of living in the Arctic, and I’m able to feed my family and help them.”
Bathory was able to spend the weekend in Ottawa with her children, husband, brothers and mother. Being with them at the award show was very special, she said.
“It was a family reunion that was very long overdue,” she said. “It was just so beautiful to see my brothers running and screaming, and my mother crying, and my husband arm-in-arm with my family, it was just an incredible thing.”
Before heading back to Iqaluit, Bathory is off to Toronto for a few projects. There, she’ll be spending some time at the Art Gallery of Ontario to plan the layout of an exhibit featuring some of her works.
After that, she’ll be headed back up North with her family, where she says she hopes to get some rest before going back to work on some upcoming film projects.
“I’m jumping right back into the amazing collaborative work that I’ve always been lucky to be a part of,” she said. “I’m excited for what’s to come, not just for me and my family, but for Inuit art. We’re going to keep doing this.”