Calgary artist wins inaugural Won Lee Prize

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A Calgary-based artist has won the inaugural Won Lee Prize, awarded to a Canadian artist living with a disability.

“Disability is about difference. This is something that I really want to put forward with my art. I would not paint the way that I paint if I wasn’t born with a disability. My perspective is informed by it,” said Athena Cooper.

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Cooper was selected by a national jury amongst a competitive pool of applicants from across the country. With support from The National accessArts Centre (NaAC), the family of the late Won Lee, and the Endowment Incentives Program administered by the Government of Canada, the Won Lee Prize is the largest prize ($3,000) for an artist living with a disability.

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“I’d like to congratulate Athena for being the inaugural recipient of the Won Lee Prize. The jury was inspired by her incredible perspective as an artist, and her dedication to her practice,” said Jung-Suk Ryu, president and CEO of the National accessArts Centre, which has offices in Calgary and Toronto.

The Won Lee Prize celebrates the legacy of the late Canadian artist Won Lee, whose life and artistic practice were affected by his disability. After his death, his family and estate donated his permanent collection and a transformative gift to the National accessArts Centre, creating the NaAC / Won Lee Endowment Fund and the Won Lee Prize. The NaAC’s Toronto studio and gallery is also named the Won Lee Community Arts Hub in his honour.

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