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In time, the young artist would mature into a sculptor whose creative works spanned both the realistic and the abstract. According to art writer Deborah Wood, “his individual style does not fit into an easy definition. Matthews is propelled by intuitive, creative powers in search of beauty and harmony and seeks the eternal as well as affirmation of his deepest instincts of life against a frustration that comes from the inhuman forces of our civilization”. (see the complete story)
After completing the Michener Award, Matthews left Ottawa in July 1971 and moved to an historic 200-acre country home in Lanark County near Perth, Ontario. His rambling five bedroom stone farm house dates back to the 1840’s. It sits next to an ancient weather-beaten gristmill which serves as his well-equipped studio workshop. If you look closely around the gardens, you will see a few of his outstanding monumental creations including the prized seven foot ‘Bronze Phoenix’.
In the fall of 1983 the administration of the Michener Award was transferred from the National Press Club to the newly established Michener Awards Foundation.
Paul Deacon, former editor and publisher of the Financial Post, was appointed President. At this time, the Foundation decided that in addition to the regular annual award to a media organization, another award would be created to honour an individual whose lifetime work exemplified the best in public service journalism. It would be presented once every four or five years and at the discretion of the Foundation.
Deacon approached Matthews and asked him to design this new trophy – ‘The Special Award’ – as it would come to be known. It would be similar to the original Michener – one side of the new bronze plaque carried a display of old typeface, part of which spelled out the name of ‘Michener’. Engraved on the opposite side was a map of Canada. The shape though was significantly different in one respect – instead of rectangular in form like the first award, it was circular.
Tragically, in September of ’83, the respected CTV News London Bureau chief Clark Todd had died of shrapnel wounds while covering the civil war in Lebanon. The Foundation decided to make a special commemorative citation in honour of Todd – to be presented posthumously the following year – in recognition of his accomplishments in journalism. It was fitting that the man who started it all, Roland Michener, would be on hand to do the honours.
On November 10th, 1984, the former Governor General stepped forward during the annual Rideau Hall Michener award ceremony to present the first Special Award, created by John Matthews, in the name of Clark Todd. The award for his ‘exceptional contribution to public service and journalism’ was accepted by his widow Anne Todd.
And so John Matthews’ artistic relationship with the Michener award program was brought to a close. But his name will live on each year when the Governor General of Canada celebrates the best of Canadian journalism – and delivers yet another ‘bronze’, to yet another deserving recipient.
The Canadian artist still resides in Perth. When not sculpting, he finds practical outlets for his creative energies in hobbies such as architectural design, landscaping and gardening.
(All media are eligible for the Michener Award including radio, television stations, newspapers, periodicals, and news syndication services. The award is presented to a news organization rather than individual journalists)