James MacSwain wins Portia White Prize and selects VANS Mentorship Program as secondary recipient

October 31, 2011 – On Friday, October 28th at the sixth annual Creative Nova Scotia Awards Gala, hosted at the Cunard Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Visual Arts Nova Scotia (VANS) member and artist, James MacSwain won the Portia White Prize, naming the VANS Mentorship Program as the prizes secondary recipient.

Born in Amherst, Nova Scotia, MacSwain is an artist whose work spans many regions of practice. He is a photographer, collage artist, video and filmmaker. He is also a programmer, curator, teacher, mentor, poet and actor.  MacSwain received a BA in English from Mount Alison University and studied theatrical arts at the University of Alberta. After traveling and living in Europe, he settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he began a career in theatre and arts administration.

In the 1970s, MacSwain was instrumental in the establishment of the artist-run centres, the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative – AFCOOP (1974) and the Centre for Art Tapes – CFAT (1979), not only as a creator but as a volunteer board member and later administrator. These centres gave birth to a new era of independent media production in Nova Scotia, a legacy that continues to flourish. He established and taught the 8mm and 16mm film program at NSCAD University which created the foundation for the current film school. He has served as an instructor and mentor at AFCOOP and CFAT and several artist-in-the-schools programs.

Since 1980, he has been working in film and video, receiving Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council and Nova Scotia grants as a media artist. His work has been screened at festivals nationally, including a retrospective of works, recently, at the Toronto Images Festival in 2011, and he has been recognized by his peers as a pioneer of animation in Nova Scotia.

MacSwain’s endless spirit of generosity, evident in his willingness to participate, engage, exchange ideas and enrich the creativity of others without sacrificing his own creative vision, has made him an ideal candidate for this esteemed provincial prize.

It is fitting, therefore, that as an esteemed mentor to, and resource in, the visual arts community in Nova Scotia, MacSwain would designate the protégé prize recipient as the VANS Mentorship Program. Pairing emerging artists with established artists for the last 6 years in a 10-month mentorship, the VANS Mentorship Program continues to advance the visual art practices of Nova Scotia’s emerging artists. MacSwain’s prize designation will go towards shaping and sustaining the visual arts sector into the future.


Visual Arts Nova Scotia (VANS) works for the advancement of the visual arts and visual artists in Nova Scotia.

For more information on James MacSwain, read Andrew Paterson’s review of MacSwain at Toronto Images Festival, “Unravelling the Prankster”, in the Fall 2011 issue of Visual Arts News.

For more information about VANS, visit www.visualarts.ns.ca or contact Becky Welter-Nolan, VANS Programming Coordinator at 902-423-4694, (toll-free) 1-866-225-8267, communicate@visualarts.ns.ca.

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2 Responses to James MacSwain wins Portia White Prize and selects VANS Mentorship Program as secondary recipient

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