Creative Encouragement Award

In 2023 the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards Foundation announced a new award in recognition of the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the Foundation.

The Creative Encouragement Award is given in conjunction with the Distinguished Artist Awards and provides a $3,000 gift from each Distinguished Artist to a mid-career artist they wish to acknowledge and encourage. The program was piloted with the 2021 Distinguished Artist Awards and is a tangible and meaningful way to connect our most accomplished distinguished artists to Alberta’s upcoming creative talent.


Amena Shehab 2023

Selected by Mieko Ouchi, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta 2023 Distinguished Artist.

Amena Shehab is an Arab-Canadian actor, playwright and educator utilizing storytelling and theatre to mine the human experience. Through her work she explores womanhood, motherhood, and migration, empowering newcomer women and enriching Alberta’s cultural landscape. In 2023, her one-woman show Hager debuted in Toronto. Also in 2023, Amena was recognized as one of 25 artists awarded the Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund award to celebrate the Edmonton Arts Council’s 25th anniversary.

Receiving the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Creative Encouragement Award was incredibly affirming for me. It’s been a big nod to my work in theatre, really highlighting how powerful and transformative storytelling and the arts can be. More than just recognizing what I’ve done, this award feels like a push forward, energizing me to dive even deeper into the human experience through my theatre work.

AJA Louden 2021

Selected by Faye HeavyShield, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta 2021 Distinguished Artist.

AJA Louden works as a full-time artist and muralist in Edmonton and area. As a self-taught artist, Louden was first attracted to hip hop culture, graffiti, and unsanctioned public art: “These are interesting subsets of public art and valid ways to engage the public,” says Louden. His work can be seen on brick walls, in transit stations, alley ways, on buildings and fences across the city and the province. In 2024 AJA branched into the medium of large textile tapestries for a solo exhibition at the Alberta Craft Council titled Prairie Star Deck.

Receiving this award, shared with me by Faye HeavyShield on behalf of the Foundation, was a huge honour. As an artist with a non-traditional background, this recognition gave me some confidence that my practice was seen and valued. I am grateful for the support, and endeavour to pay it forward to help the next generations of artists.

Alanna Bluebird 2023

Selected by Michelle Thrush, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta 2023 Distinguished Artist.
Alanna Bluebird is a transformative artist and the founder of HEAL, Helping Every Artist Live. With a passion for creativity and self-expression, Alanna has pursued a diverse range of artistic endeavours. She is an actor, spoken word poet, artistic director and producer of numerous productions. In her work as a professional photographer, Alanna has captured stunning images featured in a range of publications.

Helen Belay 2021

Selected by Cheryl Foggo, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta 2021 Distinguished Artist.

Helen Belay is a theatre artist and graduate of the University of Alberta’s Fine Arts theatre program. Her early launch onto the professional stage was impacted when COVID hit, but Belay used the shutdowns to “make art that can live in COVID.” She workshopped plays via Zoom, staged readings, performed theatre outdoors, started working on a podcast focused on history and the arts, and discovered a beautiful community of inspiring artists along the way.

We have a hunger for story, a hunger for connection. As a performer, you are putting an idea out to the audience with a hope that it can lead to a better understanding of others. I’ve had a lot of time to process and consider the stories I am interested in telling, and the values I hold dear to me in my work.

Corinne Dickson 2023

Selected by Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta 2023 Distinguished Artists.

Corinne Dickson is a Calgary-based multi-disciplinary artist working in mediums that include painting and murals, glass, fabric arts, and voice acting. Her work reflects her deep connection with the natural world: a standout in her catalogue of works is her series of paintings that juxtapose images of the massive and the miniature, and engage the viewer to appreciate the remarkable beauty and inter-connectedness of nature.

This award was true to its name for me – very encouraging! I was honoured to be recognized as an artist in this way. It was an extremely positive experience, for which I am very grateful.

Lisa La Touche 2021

Selected by Vicki Adams Willis, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta 2021 Distinguished Artist.

Tap dancer Lisa La Touche left Alberta to pursue a busy professional dance career in the USA, but when the pandemic hit she moved back to Calgary with her infant son and discovered a receptive, supportive and progressive dance community she has embraced. These days, La Touche is a very busy performer and tap dance teacher. Her most recent endeavor has been writing and directing her debut film TRAX encompassing her journey back to Alberta and her expanded discovery of local black history.

The recognition of the Creative Encouragement Award allowed me to strategize, collect my thoughts and look for new ways to do my art and serve Calgary’s arts community. Calgary is so progressive and everyone just wants to move forward!

Karen Bray 2023

Selected by Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta 2023 Distinguished Artists.
Karen Bray’s artistry moves easily among a wide mix of media including painting, sculpture, collage, and hook rug making. Her work is smart, sharp, and honest. On first blush, her art is non-threatening, accessible, well-crafted, and a little cheeky. A closer look reveals provocative preoccupations: death, sex, fragility, class, and religion—to name a few. Her work questions our values and preconceptions. She subverts sentimentality, elevates the ordinary and shines a light on the typically ‘unseen’ aspects of our world.