2021 MERA Award For Excellence

Fred Fowler is the recipient of the 2021 MERA Award for Excellence in the Fine Arts and Fine Crafts, with runners up Catherine Orfald and Cheryl Straby, in recognition of their excellent work.

“This was not an easy choice!”, wrote juror Susie Osler. However, after a robust and thoughtful discussion of the twelve submissions, the three-person jury selected painter Fred Fowler as the winner of this year’s Award Of Excellence in Fine Arts and Fine Crafts, with painter Catherine Orfald and clothing designer Cheryl Straby as runners up.
Jurors Sunny Kerr, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Agnes Etherington Art Gallery at Queens University in Kingston, Victoria Henry, curator and art critic, and the former Director of the Canada Council Art Bank, and Susie Osler, ceramic artist, and the founder of Fieldwork, a decade-long, land-based art project in Lanark County, unanimously selected Fred Fowler for the 2021 award. Victoria Henry said of Fowler’s entry, “The jury was intrigued with the mystery inherent in his work. What is the man thinking as he looks overboard puffing on a cigarette and is the woman in the background the source of his contemplation?” Susie Osler commented, “Fred’s paintings capture intimate, and very particular, moments in time and space that resonate with enigmatic narrative.” Sunny Kerr writes “Fred Fowler submitted a selection of elegantly rendered and subtly balanced works in Acrylic. Each gently draws your attention to a moment of clarity. Fowler’s skillful depiction of light serves each painting’s disclosure of a fleeting narrative; these range in mood from intense to delicately serene. My favourite piece is Vibrating The Rim.”
Fred Fowler describes his process, “I’m always seeking a visible level of perfection in whatever medium I’m using. In my heart and mind I know why and what I like to paint. I seek to create artwork that is well crafted, done with a “good eye”, artwork that works technically and is visibly desirable and will tell a tale and emotionally move the viewer.”



Victoria Henry writes about Catherine Orfald’s paintings: “Orfald responds to the landscape she knows well with fine attention to detail.” Susie Osler comments, “Catherine’s accomplished, detailed work shows both a deep commitment to her practice as an artist, and the deep connection to the landscapes, and the people enjoying those landscapes, that inspire her paintings.”
Orfald describes her process, “The process of keen observation and depiction of my environment deepens my emotional response and further informs my artistic response. I paint to see more clearly, feel more deeply, and to make stronger connections with the world around me.”


Sunny Kerr writes of Cheryl Straby’s clothing designs, “Cheryl Straby’s work is accomplished in its fearless and vivid design and its meticulous artistry.” Victoria Henry says, “The combination of patterns, materials and design creates a memorable and gorgeously wearable artwork.” Straby (of Streve Design) describes her process, “In addition to collage I also enjoy playing with negative and positive imagery derived from nature… the sinuous curves of plants and flowers. My greatest joy is to continue creating beautiful, sustainable and ethically made wearable art clothing and accessories…”


The MERA Award, consisting of a $1000 prize, will be presented to Fred Fowler at a reception on Friday, June 18th. 2021 from 4:00 pm until 5:30 pm at the Schoolhouse in McDonald’s Corners. Cheryl Straby and Catherine Orfald will also be invited. The artwork will be displayed for all to enjoy. If COVID-19 restrictions do not allow us to gather, the celebration will be held on Zoom. To request an invitation in the event of a Zoom celebration, contact Helen Mogford, hmogford@gmail.com.

The MERA Award, which is given every two years, was conceived and made possible by a generous donation by Lanark Highlands residents Chris and David Dodge to the Perth and District Community Foundation, which manages the funds. Recognizing MERA’s important contribution to the arts community, the Dodges chose MERA to select the Award winners.

Anyone interested in learning more about the MERA Award is invited to send an email to meraschoolhouse@gmail.com, or visit MERA’s website: www.meraschoolhouse.org. The next award will be given in 2023