courtesy Trudie Lee Photography

U of C professor wins Lieutenant Governor of Alberta award

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University of Calgary English and creative writing professor Aritha van Herk has won one of two 2013 Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artist Awards.

She will be presented with a handcrafted medal and a prize of $30,000 at a gala dinner in Red Deer on June 15.

Van Herk has won numerous literary and teaching awards since she published her first novel in 1978, including the recently received Lorne Pierce Medal from the Royal Society of Canada and the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal last year. She was also inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2011.

“It’s wonderful to be recognized,” Van Herk says, “but I think the awards are probably in proportion to the energy you pour into your work.”

It’s about loving your work and if you love what you do then nothing else really matters Van Herk explains. Part of what Van Herk loves about what she does is seeing her students succeed.

Van Herk received a phone call from one of her past students during the interview. The student called to tell Van Herk that a publishing house had accepted the student’s first book.

“I mean my teaching award,” Van Herk says pointing to a small golden apple trophy on her desk, “that and the phone call, that’s what matters.”

She says this past year has been a great year for Calgary artists, with Will Ferguson winning a Giller Prize last fall, Marcello di Cintio winning the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize in March and the Old Trout Puppet Workshop winning the second Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artists award.

“Calgary is the best place to be!” Van Herk says.

Van Herk is finishing up a book of poetry on the Calgary Stampede which she wrote while working as the 2012 Calgary Stampede writer-in-residence.