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Grace Butler Memorial Foundation Award at Ara - winner announced

Zina Swanson is the inaugural recipient of a new contemporary art award, the Grace Butler Memorial Foundation Award at Ara.


Zina Swanson is the inaugural recipient of the Grace Butler Memorial Foundation Award at Ara, a contemporary art award for an artist who has an association with Canterbury whose work “gives consideration to place and environment - natural and/or built.”

The Award consists of a three-month residency, inclusive of a $20,000 grant and studio at Ara School of Art and Design. 

The Award was established by the artist’s daughter, Grace Adams (1923 – 2012), and the Grace Butler Memorial Foundation in remembrance of Grace Butler (1886 – 1962) who, for more than four decades painted in the Arthur’s Pass region and New Brighton. Her work bridged the divide between 19th-century landscape painting and the emerging modernism of the 1930s. 

The selection panel for the inaugural award was: Lecturer in Art History and Theory at the University of Canterbury, Barbara Garrie, artist Jacquelyn Greenbank, and curator at the Christchurch Art Gallery, Peter Vangioni. 

In selecting Zina Swanson the panel commented: “Zina’s work stood out for her thoughtful engagement with environmental issues and her questioning and cross-examination of our relationship to the natural world which Zina addresses through sculptural objects, installations and paintings. The experimental attitude of Zina’s practice echoes that of Grace Butler whose own dedication to a developing New Zealand modernism marked her out as a brave and progressive artist. We believe Zina’s work sets a high benchmark for the future of the award.” 

Zina Swanson graduated from the University of Canterbury's School of Fine Arts in 2004. In 2013 she was the Frances Hodgkins Fellow and in 2014 undertook a month-long residency in New York facilitated by Apexart, Tribecca. Her work is held in the collections of the Christchurch Art Gallery, University of Canterbury and the Hocken Collection. 

Swanson says that the idea for the work she will develop during her residency at Ara came from a large installation she made in 2014 called Dracaena Screen. This installation focused around a screen/curtain made from 11,000 hand-rolled terra-cotta beads. “Dracaena Screen
was the major piece in the exhibition No need for water which marked the end of completion of the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship.” 

“Making Dracaena Screen was my first experience using terra-cotta and the opportunity to push this material further with the support of the Grace Butler Memorial Award is a hugely exciting prospect.” 

The Grace Butler Memorial Foundation says that it is “honoured and excited to be supporting the work of contemporary Canterbury artists and for the legacy of Grace Butler to contribute to advancing the visual arts in New Zealand for generations to come.” 

The selection panel for the Grace Butler Memorial Award at Ara also acknowledged and commended the submission received from conceptual artist and contemporary weaver Annie MacKenzie. 



Further information: 

For further information please contact:
Dr. Warren Feeney
PH: 022 176 9272 


Written by

Centre of Contemporary Art

16 Feb 2018