MERA Award of Excellence Announcement

There is a first time for everything! Heidi Earnshaw and Elise Abrams-Ogg are recognized as the co-winners of the 2023 MERA Award of Excellence in Fine Art and Fine Craft.

“It is a pleasure to see so many high-quality submissions coming from our MERA community.” wrote juror Suzette MacSkimming. The submissions this year were such high quality that the members of the three-person jury decided that two applicants were equally deserving of the winning title. Furniture designer and maker Heidi Earnshaw and classical archaeologist, organic farmer and heritage carpenter Elise Abrams-Ogg have been selected as co-winners of this year’s Award of Excellence in Fine Arts and Fine Crafts, with painter Barb J. Sohn as finalist.

Jurors Sunny Kerr, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Agnes Etherington Art Gallery at Queens University in Kingston, Victoria Henry, former Director of the Canada Council Art Bank, and currently developing a photographic practice and serves on multiple boards, and Suzette MacSkimming, painter and printmaker, teacher and presenter represented in Perth by the Studio 87 Gallery, were impressed by the spectrum of different kinds of art and abilities in all nine applicants to this year’s award. Juror Victoria Henry writes “We carefully considered all of the applications and found it challenging as there is such incredible talent in Lanark County. It was especially interesting to see the development of individual art practices at all ages. Taking this growth into account, the jury was unanimous in its recommendations.”

All three jurors were impressed by the remarkable furniture designer and maker Heidi Earnshaw’s “…dedication to her creative practice, her consummate skill as a designer, and her careful, caring efforts as a maker of unique pieces…”

When describing her style of furniture making, Earnshaw refers to her work as “slow furniture”, a term inspired by the slow movement “There is a deeply held belief within the slow movement that objects hold our memories and traces of our daily rituals and experiences.  This begins with the maker and continues, often in very intangible ways with the person or people who engage the made objects.  As makers, can we make tangible what is intangible?  Can craft and craftsmanship invite or even demand slowness?  Attention?   Meaning?  These are some of the questions at the heart of my practice.”

Dresser by Heidi Earnshaw


As a draftsperson par excellence, Elise Abrams-Ogg works primarily in graphite and watercolour and describes the dual forces at play that inspire her pieces “I am compelled by the way these once-crisp forms are transformed over time by nature and the fogginess of memory into more chaotic and romantic structures. Temples break down and we see plants and animals move into the cracks, vegetation decays. In all structures, both human-made and natural, the dual forces of precise geometry and unpredictable decay are always at work.”. Since studying heritage carpentry at Algonquin College in Perth, Abrams-Ogg has found another way to express herself artistically. She finds the same dynamic of precision and predictability are at play.

Waking Akroterion by Elise Abrams-Ogg


Jurors recognize Barb J. Sohn as a finalist for her outstanding contributions as an artist and to our community. “[Sohn] brings us light, emotion, and the clear colours of our wild environment in her beautiful, large paintings. She consistently creates works of fine quality and enduring beauty.  We feel the silence, calm and sometimes even a mystical grandeur, as in her depiction called St. Elias Lake, Yukon.” Barb Sohn is also a founder of local studio tour Art Works! Perth.

St. Elias Lake, Yukon by Barb Sohn (Acrylic 20×40)


The MERA Award, consisting of a $1000 prize, will be presented to Heidi Earnshaw and Elise Abrams-Ogg at a reception on Friday, June 16th. 2023 from 4:30 pm until 6:00 pm at the Schoolhouse (974 Concession Road 9A Dalhousie, McDonalds Corners). Heidi Earnshaw, Elise Abrams-Ogg and Barb J. Sohn will also be invited. The artwork will be displayed for all to enjoy.

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 The next award will be given in 2025.