New Criticism Award Launched in BC

The Max Wyman Award for Cultural Commentary celebrates leading critical writers By Brittany Duggan
  • Max Wyman / Photo by Yukiko Onley, courtesy of BC Alliance for Arts and Culture

On April 18, a new award that acknowledges excellence in critical writing and commentary on the visual, performing and literary arts will be celebrated in Vancouver.

The Max Wyman Award for Cultural Commentary recognizes “writing that stimulates critical thinking, fosters an ongoing discussion about the role of arts and culture in contemporary society, and demonstrates the importance of creative commentary as a tool in our understanding and interpretation of the world around us,” according to the BC Alliance for Arts and Culture press release

“The Max,” as the award has already been nicknamed, is a cash prize to support and celebrate leading critical writers. It will be awarded every two years. In addition, the recipient will have the opportunity to name an emerging author to receive a $1000 honorarium. 

The award is the brainchild of community leader and philanthropist Dr. Yosef Wosk.

“To me, it’s a golden age of criticism, of expression,” says Wosk. “We’re witnessing an explosion of media, the democratization of knowledge. It’s an incredible time to be alive. And it was important that it be in Max’s name for the inspiration that he brings to the table in both his personality and his professional work.”

Celebrated writer and critic Wyman is not only the award’s first recipient but this first iteration acts jointly as a Lifetime Achievement Award.

“I’m embarrassed and delighted by it,” says Wyman, who has been called a celebrity of arts writing in Canada. “But it’s not really about me; it’s important for the whole field of critical writing and cultural commentary. I think it’s absolutely marvelous that Yosef has taken this initiative.” 

In conversation with The Dance Current, and in posts on his website, Wyman discusses the crisis of criticism. “The internet has made everyone a critic. People are certainly no longer reticent about expressing themselves. The problem is misinformed or under-informed commentary and what you need from a critic is a kind of balance, a kind of vision, context and way of thinking about something.”

Wyman admits that writing about dance is his favourite: “Dance is the most expressive of the art forms, the most fulfilling for me. I want to record it, to get it down … bequeath it to the people who come after and expand it for the people who are here now. 

The public are invited to the launch of this award at the Vancouver Playhouse on April 18, 2017, at 5:30 pm.

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