Established in 2015, The Emerging Digital Artists Award (EDAA) is Canada’s first digital art award designed to foster experimentation in the work of emerging artists and create opportunities for those working in digital media.
Along with the launch of EQ Bank - Equitable’s first all-digital banking channel, Equitable inaugurated the EDAA to champion artists working exclusively in virtual space. Recognizing their own challenges breaking into new territory within the digital landscape, Equitable established the EDAA to uplift the next generation of artists who are innovating with digital technologies and creating works that offer perspective on our increasingly digital world.
As a digital organization with an established digital art collection and pre-existing partnerships within the arts sector, the natural thought was “we’re a digital bank, why not support digital art?” recalls Shannon Linde, Curator of EQ Bank.
During the program’s inaugural year, a board member from Trinity Square Video participated in the EDAA jury process and recognized a potential partnership opportunity. After their initial meeting, the value alignment between organizations was clear. As an organization with a mandate to re-imagine the expansion of media and digital arts and support new artists and curators, Trinity Square Video was established as the perfect partner to support the development of the EDAA program and participating artists.
The partnership with Trinity Square Video was instrumental in the development and success of the EDAA. “By working with Canada’s oldest media arts centre, our network expanded exponentially, and we were able to reach a wider range of digital artists across the country,” explains Linde.
Together, the two organizations developed an ideal presentation output for the awards. Every year, EQ Bank funds a juried selection process with five digital artists shortlisted for a group exhibition, presented at Trinity Square Video. The exhibition culminates with the presentation of the Emerging Digital Artist Award to one of the five finalists. The winner is awarded a cash prize of $5000 and their work is acquired as part of EQ Bank's permanent collection.
The award also grew to include a guaranteed placement in Trinity Square Video’s annual themed commission the following year.
The 2020 award marked two major milestones. Firstly, the EDAA received over 100 applications, which was their largest reach to date. It was also the year everything changed. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they shifted the structure of the Emerging Digital Artist Award to better serve artists during a particularly uncertain moment.
Linde explains that “in lieu of an in-person award ceremony to announce a single winner, we redirected budgets to award a grand prize to all five shortlisted artists. For the 2021 award and moving forward, we will keep this new structure, increasing our investment in emerging digital artists, and hosting an award ceremony either virtually or in-person as soon as it is safe to do so!”
The collaborative partnership between EQ bank and Trinity Square Video facilitated collaboration in unexpected ways. Looking to “create an oasis, an escape from relentless COVID-19 news, and create a thought-provoking corner of the internet”, they launched the Digital Art Spotlight.
Once a week, they feature the work of an incredible Canadian digital artist on their Instagram accounts. EQ Bank provided artist fees, TSV technical support, and together they selected artists and reviewed content before publishing. “The collaboration allowed us to support artists and share their work in a way that reached beyond a typical exhibition platform,” shared Linde.
EQ Banks is looking forward to evolving and growing to better suit the needs of emerging digital artists across Canada. This includes seeking out additional mentorship and professional development opportunities, new platforms for expression and potentially even collaboration.
“What’s exciting about digital art as a medium, is that it’s naturally evolving in accordance to the technologies it utilizes and reflects on. For now, focusing on the advancements of the medium is a priority, as each year we witness new trends and approaches.
In the longer term, things could change radically, or could continue along the same trajectory of growth each year - in any case, we look forward to continuing to collaborate closely with Trinity Square to ensure the EDAA continues to champion this next generation of digital creators,” said Linde.