A launch pad to success 

Inaugural Bronfman fellowship supports emerging artists

By Anna Sarkissian

Magnifying glass

As a recipient of the inaugural Claudine and Stephen Bronfman Fellowship in Contemporary Art, graduating MFA student Steve Bates readily acknowledges how fortunate he is.

“They have designed the perfect award for someone in my position – making the transition between being a student and artist,” he says of the prestigious fellowship valued at up to $55 000. “I’m not sure that winning it has really sunk in yet.”

Over the course of the next two years, Bates will receive assistance to cover living expenses, research/travel, materials, studio rental and exhibition costs, plus a salary for teaching a 3-credit course and giving a public lecture.

Concordia and the Université de Québec à Montréal each selected a winner, unveiled at a ceremony on May 20 on the 11th floor of the EV Building. Bates was unable to attend because he was in Alberta preparing an installation for the 100th anniversary of the City of Calgary Parks with collaborator Douglas Moffat (see Journal, June 4, 2009). Painter Véronique Savard is the UQAM recipient.

In a pre-recorded video, he thanked the Bronfman family for establishing the award and for providing an excellent resource to help him take the next step in his career: “It means the world to me.” He also recognized the contributions of his teachers, classmates, and his wife, jake moore, director of the FOFA Gallery.

Bronfman Fellowship winner Steve Bates displayed his thesis project <em>Dead Air </em>at the Parisian Laundry in April, which incorporated broadcasts played through clock radios (above) and snare drums, plus video and performance. Magnifying glass

Bronfman Fellowship winner Steve Bates displayed his thesis project Dead Air at the Parisian Laundry in April, which incorporated broadcasts played through clock radios (above) and snare drums, plus video and performance.

Stephen Bronfman said he and Claudine were thrilled with the creative and innovative scope of the work of the first Bronfman Fellowship recipients, adding that they “look forward to interacting with them over the next two years and witnessing their artistic development.”

Bates is an artist and musician who experiments with radio, improvised or composed music, installation and video. He completed his BA at the University of Winnipeg in 1998, where he won the Philosophy Gold Medal.

He founded Send + Receive: A Festival of Sound in Winnipeg and directed the international media art fest for eight years. After making the move to Montreal, he joined Hexagram as sound coordinator in 2005 and later started his MFA in Studio Arts (Open Media).

For the past two summers, he has instructed intensive courses at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London with collaborators and Concordia grads Moffat and Joshua Bonnetta. The trio recently presented Ghost Acoustics, a five-week exhibit at the FOFA with accompanying performances, film screenings and workshops created under the name of their studio, AKVK.

At the Parisian Laundry in April, Bates exhibited his thesis work Dead Air as part of the gallery’s annual graduate student showcase, Collision. He showed four works inspired by a Walter Benjamin text entitled On the Minute, which for Bates led to questions about the origins of coordinated global time – defined days, hours, minutes and eventually time zones.

“It drew together so many of my interests and concerns in the most visceral way. What decisions go into how we spend the moments of our day? Why do I go to my job in the morning? How do you choose to spend your time?”

Next up, Bates and Moffat are embarking on a project commissioned by the City of Toronto to create a permanent outdoor installation called OKTA.

Now that he is done school, he looks forward to focusing his time and energy on artwork and research, saying he feels some healthy pressure to step up to the plate and take advantage of the incredible opportunity ahead of him.

At the same time, Bates doesn’t intend to rely solely on teaching positions or grants to keep him afloat as an artist. “I’ve made all kinds of work in the past without support and without my MFA. I’ll still be able to produce work,” he says, adding that he is resolved to continue working with or without financial help.


Concordia University