Main page content begins here

Jalal Barzanji

Jalal Barzanji


Since he arrived in Canada as a United Nations sponsored refugee, Jalal Barzanji has become known not only for his extraordinary talents as a poet, essayist and champion of freedom of speech for all writers, but also as a tireless community worker. Born in Kurdistan, Jalal was working as a journalist, poet and cultural worker in northern Iraq when, during the regime of Saddam Hussein, he was imprisoned and tortured for two years for his political beliefs. After fleeing Iraq, he applied for permanent residency in Canada and arrived in Edmonton with his family in 1998.

During this time of transition, Jalal was and still remains an active writer, reader and presenter. Jalal joined the Edmonton Stroll of Poets in 2001, and the Writers Guild of Alberta and PEN Canada in 2007. That same year, he was named the First International Edmonton-PEN Writer-in-Exile and during his term he worked as a writing coach and mentor from his offices at the Edmonton Public Library and the University of Alberta. During part of the following year, he was Writer-in- Residence at the Berton House in Dawson City. Jalal’s literary memoir, The Man in Blue Pyjamas, was translated from Kurdish into English and was published by the University of Alberta Press to rave reviews. It received several honours, including the Alberta Book Awards Lois Hole Award for Editorial Excellence. It was also honoured by ‘A Year of Reading the World.’ The University of Alberta Press recently published Trying Again to Stop Time, a translated selection from Jalal’s seven Kurdish books of poetry.

Just two years after his arrival, Jalal founded the Canadian Kurdish Friendship Association to help integrate newcomers into the community. He personally worked with youth involved in gangs, mobilized Kurdish seniors to support each other, and mentored many young leaders in Edmonton’s Kurdish community. He has also been deeply involved with the Multicultural Health Brokers Cooperative as a community worker/advocate. Jalal is known in Edmonton’s multicultural community for his quiet yet powerful visionary leadership.

“When we use our words together, writers are stronger than armies and dictators. When we write, there is no cost in blood or tears. If we defend one another’s freedom, we can make the world more peaceful, more beautiful for everyone. That is our purpose as writers. That is why we exist.”

Heather C. Bedford-Clooney

Heather Bedford-Clooney


Gifted voice teacher, choral conductor and music administrator Heather Bedford-Clooney will tell you that perhaps her greatest gift is her seemingly unlimited energy. Her CV confirms that talent plus energy have been a formidable combination in her life.

Heather has been with the Edmonton Columbian Choirs for 38 years, 20 as Artistic Director. She began conducting the Columbian Girls’ Choir and now conducts her women’s choir, Chanteuses, which has twice been a finalist in the Canadian Amateur Choir Competition. In 2012, in partnership with Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples, she formed an inner city choir, which she co-conducts. She is Vice President of the Alberta Music Festival Association and the conductor with the Festival Singers in Sherwood Park. She also serves as the Executive Director of the Shean Piano and Strings Competition, the Federation of Canadian Music Festivals, and the Edmonton Kiwanis Music Festival. She is Past President of the Association of Canadian Choral Communities, the Alberta Choral Federation, Music Alberta, and Opera Nuova. She was also musical director of many musicals at Salisbury Composite High School, where she taught for 35 years.

In 2008, Heather received the Alberta Choral Federation Richard Eaton Award for a life time of service to choral music in Alberta.

Among Heather’s strengths is her ability to encourage and motivate others. Many of her students and choristers have become conductors, teachers and performers. Heather’s willingness to take unpaid gigs that promote the arts/ music/choral community cements her reputation as a builder. She made World Music a component of the Edmonton Kiwanis Music Festival in 2014. She was also instrumental in bringing the National Music Festival of Canada to Edmonton for an almost unprecedented two years in a row (2015 and 2016).

“I am always very surprised and honoured when someone asks me to do something, so I say yes. Then I figure out how to fit it in. I realized as a young girl that you never give away without getting back far more in return.”

Catherine Crowston

Catherine Crowston


The Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) is both an architectural showpiece and the embodiment of the successful transformation of The Edmonton Art Gallery into a major Canadian cultural institution with international reach. Catherine Crowston, Executive Director and Chief Curator of the AGA, has been at the heart of the organization throughout the process. Catherine is recognized within the arts community and beyond as one of the leading public art gallery and museum directors in Canada, as well as an initiator of innovative and enlightening exhibition projects and programs. ]

In a position that is often transitory as curators move on to other opportunities, Catherine has chosen to remain in Edmonton for the past 17 years. She has overseen the Gallery through its transition, including the move from the original building to the interim gallery at Enterprise Square; participated in the planning and development of the new building; and successfully implemented a clear vision for the AGA.

“It’s not often one has the opportunity to envision a new facility and expanded program like this, and the transformation of our role in the community. This is what has kept me here.”

Catherine oversees the Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art, an extraordinarily successful exhibition series organized by the AGA that, every two years, showcases a cross-section of the art being made in the province. Her vision has contributed to the positive perception of the Edmonton arts community elsewhere in the world, and she has brought a broad critical eye and an enthusiasm for what great art was and what it will be.

“We try to represent the diversity of the creative practice of artists living here and from abroad. We are not promoting one idea of what art should be, but presenting the multiplicity of its possibilities.”

Todd Janes

Todd Janes


One name that has been consistent in Edmonton’s vibrant arts community over the past 25 years has been Todd Janes. Now in his 19th year as Executive Director of Latitude 53 Contemporary Visual Culture, Alberta’s oldest and largest artist-run centre, Todd is known for his enthusiasm, energy, and talent for making things happen.

As curator, writer, performer, or administrator, Todd is an innovator who puts thoughts into actions.

Just one example is the internationally recognized Visualeyez, Canada’s first and only annual festival of performance art, founded by Todd and now entering its 16th year. The event attracts performance artists from around the world and has put Edmonton on the map for this genre.

Since 2010, Todd has curated hundreds of projects, including the Incubator series at Latitude 53, a weekly summer exhibit that features work-in-progress by emerging artists who are taking artistic risks. With Todd’s vision, Latitude 53 has initiated many partnerships with schools, ethno-cultural and LGBTQ communities, and social justice sectors. He has championed programming that moves beyond gallery walls into our communities, creating space to engage the breadth of Edmonton’s diversity.

Beyond his administrative talents, Todd maintains an active creative practice as artist and advocate. In this capacity, he has represented Edmonton at festivals and galleries in Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and St. John’s. He has also served as an officer on numerous boards and advisory committees, including the Editorial Board of Muse (Canadian Museums Association), the National Association of Artist-Run Centres, the Alberta Association of Artist-Run Centres, the Collective of Canadian Performance Art Curators, and Performance Creation Canada, to name only a few. He has received an Alberta Centennial Medal and a Maclab Award for Excellence in Arts Management.

"I believe people are social and want to connect with each other in meaningful ways. Artists create works to begin a conversation and I am deeply honoured and humbled by the thousands of conversations I have been able to incite and the environments I have helped build for Edmontonians in the past, now and into our future.”

For More Information

Salute to Excellence Awards

PO Box 2359
Edmonton AB  T5J 2R7



Fax 780-577-3525

End of page content. Please choose between the following five options:

Back to main menu Back to current page menu and content View current page breadcrumb Back to site search Continue to page footer content