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May 23, 2002 Scholarships for artists have a Swedish link



by Barbara Black

The Brucebo Fine Art Scholarship Foundation has found a new home. Long administered by a McGill professor of Swedish origin, the scholarship fund has moved to Concordia, where it will be administered by Brian Foss, Associate Dean, Academic Affairs, in the Faculty of Fine Arts. The new arrangement was cemented with a luncheon at the university on May 16.

A late-19th-century romance between a Canadian painter and a Swedish heiress has left a lasting legacy in the form of two annual prizes for promising Canadian artists.

William B. Bruce was a Canadian painter who married a sculptor called Carolina Benedicks from a wealthy Swedish family. The couple wintered in the sunny Mediterranean, but spent their summers on the island of Gotland, off the west coast of Sweden, where they pursued their art.

When Bruce died in 1906, his widow gave his work to his hometown, Hamilton, Ont., where it formed the basis for the Art Gallery of Hamilton.

Before she died in 1935, Benedicks set aside enough money for the Brucebo Foundation, which awards two prizes annually.

The Bruce Travel Scholarship provides funding for a European trip of study and research, and the Brucebo Summer Grant finances a working stay at cottages in Gotland, where the Bruces once lived. Over the years, a number of the winners have been from Concordia.

Retired McGill geography professor Jan O. Lundgren has been administering the awards for some 30 years, and calls himself “a Gotlander from time to time.” He said at the luncheon that every recipient has been so enchanted with the Nordic light and general ambience of Gotland that they ask to stay longer than the three months provided by the scholarship.

Concordia Art Education Professor Andrea Fairchild was instrumental in bringing the Brucebo project to Concordia. She was at the luncheon, along with a number of representatives of the university and of Fine Arts.

Among the guests were several members of the Brucebo jury, including Concordia faculty member Kathryn Vigesaa-Lipke, plus Jan Lundgren, liaison officer of the Foundation, and Fredrik Wetterqvist, press and cultural affairs officer for the Swedish Embassy.