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Corner Brook man a Governor General’s visual and media arts award winner

Glenn Alteen has been named a winner of a 2018 Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts winner. Originally from Corner Brook, Alteen has been living in Vancouver for more than 30 years. - Photo by Josephine Anderson
Glenn Alteen has been named a winner of a 2018 Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts winner. Originally from Corner Brook, Alteen has been living in Vancouver for more than 30 years. - Photo by Josephine Anderson - Submitted

A Corner Brook man who’s made his mark in the arts world on the West Coast of the country has been named a 2018 Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts winner.

Glenn Alteen is a member of Alteen’s Jewellery family. He’s the son of Doug and Shirley Alteen, who both died in 2010.

While jewelry may be in his blood, it’s art that has always been his passion.  

“Art always interested me, though I didn’t always understand it,” he said by phone from his home in Vancouver on Friday.

Alteen remembers going to the gallery at the Arts and Culture Centre and seeing the exhibitions that Memorial University would bring to the city.

He grew up before the university would establish a campus here and later add a visual arts school.

“It’s funny, the Corner Brook I grew up in wasn’t exactly a visual art town,” he said. “Now it very much is,” he said.

After high school Alteen completed an English degree with a major in theatre and started off as a playwright and theatre director while living in Nova Scotia.

He spent some time in Alberta and then it was on to Vancouver.

In 1984, he rented a loft in the British Columbia city and one of his visual arts friends put up some paintings and held a show.

That turned into the Grunt Gallery of which Alteen is co-founder and program director.

The gallery shows a range of work from local and international artists.

“Grunt was kind of a scrappy little gallery for many years. We didn’t have much funding, but we were always trying to show things that other people weren’t showing.”

Working with indigenous, ethnic and queer artists, he said they always had a unique alternative thing going.

Besides his work at the gallery he writes articles about artists, art politics and different ideas around art, and has been published in national and international magazines.

Now 62, he’s thinking of retiring at 65 but admits it might be difficult.

“You know, we Alteens aren’t good at retiring” he said in reference to his 95-year-old uncle Fred Alteen, who still makes appearances at the Broadway store now owned by his brother Bob.

The Governor General’s Award is the first award he’s received and admits he was a bit skeptical when his friends at the gallery wanted to put his name forward.

“I kept saying ‘You’re wasting your time you guys,’” he said with a laugh.

So, he was pretty much gob-smacked when he got the call a few months ago saying he’d won.

“It’s a big honour.”

The win became a little sweeter when he learned some friends — visual and performance artist Adrian Stimson and photographer Sandra Semchuk — were among the list of winners.

The awards, which include categories for artistic achievement in visual and media arts, fine craft and outstanding contribution, are funded and administered by the Canada Council for the Arts, and come with a $25,000 cash prize for each winner.

Alteen will receive the award for outstanding contribution on March 28 from Governor General Julie Payette at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

His brother Doug, who lives in Ottawa, will be with him at the ceremony.

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