The Sault Ste. Marie Medal of Merit Selection Committee is pleased to announce Michael Burtch as the recipient of the 2017 Medal of Merit in recognition of his many contributions to the community. His long and distinguished career as an artist and art historian, his ongoing achievements as a sculptor, percussionist and curator and his efforts to raise awareness of the importance of arts and culture to the social, economic and cultural fabric of the community makes him a worthy recipient of the city’s highest honor.
Burtch’s artistic career has spanned local and international boundaries across many disciplines contributing to the arts and broader community’s vitality, particularly the tourism sector. He has played a vital role increasing Sault Ste. Marie’s presence on a world stage through his scholarly works as a professor in the visual arts program at Algoma University, as a research associate at the NORDIK Institute, through numerous published books and articles, considerable research as the culture representative on the city’s Community Adjustment Committee and sparking the tourism movement recognizing the significance of the Group of Seven to the Algoma region.
As a role model to many, he has mentored and collaborated with others developing unique art installations, performances, set designs and other cultural goods that have challenged artistic capacity to the benefit of those directly engaged in the creative sector. He has enhanced the experience and enjoyment of arts and culture throughout many platforms contributing to provincial organizational sustainability serving as president of the Ontario Association of Art Galleries and as advisor for the Arts Council of Sault Ste. Marie and District.
He was awarded the Tourism Award of Excellence in 2015 for transforming the city through culture and destination based tourists and procuring major acquisitions for the Art Gallery of Algoma’s permanent collection and major exhibitions. A number of these paintings are the cornerstone of the Group of Seven tours that exist today and populate the outdoor sculpture garden inviting others to experience public art. His vast knowledge of the arts is shared with passion for Canada’s greatest art collective and his belief that culture is the cornerstone of every community.
As one of the principles in Solemn Land Production, Michael was instrumental in exploring the area along the Algoma Central Railway corridor and the north shore of Lake Superior in search of sites that various Group of Seven painters pained. He played a key role in the research team, co-produced and stared in the film Painted Land: In Search of the Group of Seven made in partnership with White Pines Production. The documentary showcased landscapes of the area and won a number of awards including the prestigious Canadian Screen Award: Barbara Sears Award for Best Editorial Research.
“For decades, Michael has enriched the lives of members of our community through his passion for art, Sault Ste. Marie and the Algoma region,” says Mayor Christian Provenzano. “Michael’s work celebrates this area’s rich history and heritage and his support of his fellow artists has been central to the health and success of our artistic community at large. We appreciate all of Michael’s efforts and his contributions and are happy to recognize him and those with the Medal of Merit.”
The City of Sault Ste. Marie awards the Medal of Merit annually to individuals or groups who have achieved exceptional meritorious honours in athletics, cultural or academic fields or who make extraordinary contributions to the community. An awards ceremony will take place in the New Year.