A retired professor and a community arts leader endow an award to give students the big picture of artistic expression
Evan and Ingrid Alderson first met at a 1983 dance conference in Saskatoon. A fitting start for their life together.
At the time, the UC Berkley educated Evan had shifted from teaching American literature at Simon Fraser University (SFU) to a focus on the arts, specifically dance theory and criticism. The Canadian-born Ingrid had studied dance at Western University and eventually became a dance teacher there.
Their two paths wove together into a deep interest in the arts—and in young people who yearned to see how one artistic expression connected with another.
That interest led the couple to endow the Alderson Interarts Award with the School of Contemporary Arts (SCA) at SFU last year.
“When I came to SFU in 1967, I was drawn by its experimental, open nature,” says Evan, who helped develop the interdisciplinary character of the SCA in the mid-1970s. “Giving students exposure to different expressions of art was what I and others wanted to see when we developed the SCA curriculum.”
As founding director of SCA from 1975 to 1980, he saw the initial impact of the program, which included film, theatre, music, dance and visual art. “In working with students,” he says, “I saw the glow in their eyes when they started to think, ‘I’m a dancer but I can also learn what’s going on in music.’ Exposure to the different kinds of arts gave them the chance to broaden their idea of what is possible.”
Through the Alderson Interarts Award, fourth-year students majoring in the SCA through the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program are eligible to receive a $3,000 award to complete their studies. Part of the impetus for endowing the award is the Alderson’s desire to “create a modest incentive that is always available” for students to explore multiple art forms.
“We’re thrilled to establish this new award that fittingly cements Evan’s vision and passion for an interdisciplinary art school at SFU,” says Elspeth Pratt, Director of the SCA. “Thanks to the generosity of the Aldersons, we have our first award for deserving SCA students, which will encourage them to excel as well-rounded artists and recognize their talents in the years to come.”
The award is part of the legacy Evan and Ingrid leave with SFU. “This is a gift from both of us,” says Ingrid, who previously directed the Community Arts Council of Vancouver and helped establish the Scotiabank Dance Centre. “Even though my connection to SFU is limited, I come from an arts background so I fully support the award and what it will do for students.”
“If I’m honest,” adds Evan, “the donation is a bit of nostalgia for those early days when I was part of building what SCA has become, and it also celebrates the identity of the arts at SFU.”