Edmonton artists and an academic appointed to the Order of Canada

An Edmonton composer, a sculptor and an academic were each selected to receive one of the nation’s highest honours on Wednesday.

John Estacio, Barbara Paterson and Roman Petryshyn were among the 135 appointees to the Order of Canada, announced Wednesday by Gov. Gen. Mary Simon. 

Recipients are described as individuals who have made an exemplary contribution to the nation. The list includes philanthropic contributors, community organizers, industry leaders, academics, artists and more. 

Roman Petryshyn has worked toward making multiculturalism a part of mainstream Canadian society.

It began in the early 1960s with the prospect of a bilingual nation, which sparked Petryshyn to argue that Canada was more diverse than just French and English speakers. 

His work continued into the 1980s at the Edmonton college now known as MacEwan University. He was instrumental in founding the Ukrainian Resource and Development Centre (URDC) where he worked until his retirement in 2015. 

He spent much of his time working on projects that tried to strengthen bonds and connections between people and places — work he says is still important today.

“This is a much better solution than polarization or conflict or racism or xenophobia and all the negative approaches that have been tried by various people — even in Canadian history,” he said.

He continues to sit on the board at the URDC and works with the Canada Ukraine Foundation. 

Barbara Paterson is a visual artist whose sculptures can be seen in many prominent locations.

Her statues memorializing the Famous Five, a group of trailblazing Canadian women that included Emily Murphy and Nellie McClung, can be seen on Parliament Hill and at Calgary’s Olympic Plaza.

The statue of Nelly McClung, along with other members of the Famous Five, was created by Order of Canada recipient Barbara Paterson and stands on Parliament Hill. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Composer John Estacio has called Alberta home since the 1990s. He’s worked with both the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and Calgary Philharmonic.

His first finished piece, Filumena, was performed in both cities and his career has continued to grow from there. 

“There’s this ambition and this need to create and construct and do things and tell stories,” Estacio said. 

“There was room. There was space for me and for other artists to do what they wanted to do and have it performed or on display and I think that’s what has impressed me the most about Alberta. There’s room to do stuff here.”

He says the support for arts from the general public also continues to spur growth and innovation in the arts in Alberta

Edmonton-based composer John Estacio was one of 135 newly announced members of the Order of Canada. (Google Meet)

“During the pandemic, shows have been reduced in the number of people that can sit in the theatre but they are selling out. People have this urge and need to be in a community and listen to music and watch ballet and hear concerts.”

He is developing a new project with the Calgary Opera and his work continues to be seen across Canada and around the world.

Two other Albertans on the list are both from Calgary: Navjeet Singh Dhillon, recognized for his business and philanthropic efforts, and oncologist Dr. Barry Bultz. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an investiture ceremony will be planned and held at a later date. 

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