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New Zealand artists celebrated

13 July

New Zealand artists celebrated

The Arts Foundation of New Zealand - Principal Sponsor Forsyth Barr and Icon Supporting Sponsor AMP - today honoured the living icons of New Zealand arts at the second biennial Icon Awards in Wellington.

During the ceremony, six of New Zealand's most acclaimed artists were named Icons: Peter Godfrey - Musician, Patricia Grace - Writer, Alexander Grant - Ballet Dancer, Pakariki Harrison - Carver, Margaret Mahy - Writer, Donald Munro - Opera Singer/Director.

All the 2005 Icon recipients have made remarkable achievements during their lifetimes: Peter Godfrey is an internationally renowned choral conductor who founded and led many New Zealand choirs including the New Zealand Choral Federation (1985).

Patricia Grace is a leading New Zealand writer who has been a key figure in the emergence of Maori writing in English since the mid 1970s. She has written numerous award winning books, many of which have been distributed internationally.

Some commentators have named Alexander Grant as the best male dancer ever to be produced by a British Company, a great accomplishment for a New Zealander born in Wellington in 1925. Alexander career has involved close collaboration with Frederick Ashton and performances with Margot Fonteyn.

Pakariki Harrison is a leading tohunga of carving and an authority on many aspects of Maori art and its meanings. He has carved many marae throughout New Zealand and is also a celebrated writer on his art.

Margaret Mahy is a prolific writer of children's books, with work translated into fifteen different languages. Margaret has won many New Zealand and international book awards and some of her stories have been adapted for television in New Zealand and Australia.

Donald Munro is widely recognised as the 'father of New Zealand opera'. A wonderful baritone singer and tireless producer, Donald started the first opera company in New Zealand which toured throughout the heartland and internationally.

The 2005 Icons join a growing circle of New Zealand's finest talent honoured at the inaugural Icon Awards in 2003: Len Castle - Potter, Janet Frame - Writer (1924-2004), Maurice Gee - Writer, Ralph Hotere - Visual Artist, Russell Kerr Choreographer, Sir Donald McIntyre - Opera Singer, Milan Mrkusich - Painter/ visual artist, Diggeress Te Kanawa - Weaver, Hone Tuwhare - Poet, and Sir Miles Warren - Architect

"The Arts Foundation is proud to honour these extraordinary Artists on behalf of all New Zealanders," said Arts Foundation Chairman Richard Cathie. "As substantial achievers, each artist adds significantly to the growing mana of the Icon circle. The Foundation is thrilled with the response to the 2003 Awards and the call for nominations for 2005. It is clear that New Zealanders are embracing the Icon Awards as a way of celebrating and honouring our finest artists."

All Icon recipients had one thing in common: their humility and delight in being so honoured by the arts community. Writer Margaret Mahy although 'enormously thrilled and flattered' at receiving the Award said she simultaneously felt that others deserved it more. Whilst Peter Godfrey exclaimed "I'm aghast. Amazed. I can't believe I've been singled out."

Each Icon received a specially commissioned medallion and pounamu pin. The pin is kept in perpetuity, whilst the medallions are returned at the end of the artist's life, and presented to a successor. As more names are added to the medallions, the mana of the Award grows. Eventually a living circle of twenty pre-eminent Icon Artists will be appointed - people honoured for their achievement and their dedication.

Managing Director of Forsyth Barr, Neil Paviour-Smith said "We are proud to partner with the Arts Foundation as they add another chapter into New Zealand's history by honouring some of our most venerable artists. As we celebrate the artists' success and they join the wider family of Icons, all New Zealanders can witness the contributions they have made to our cultural heritage and be increasingly proud of the rich gifts the artists, our Icons, have given to New Zealand."

Greg Camm, Managing Director of AMP Financial Services, the supporting sponsor for the Icon Awards, agrees; "We believe it is truly fitting to have an award such as this which recognises our New Zealand artists in a particularly special way. A thriving art scene is what makes New Zealand a vibrant society - it gives society heart. These Awards recognise the very top echelon of that important sector of creative New Zealand. We're proud to support that." ENDS


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