Athena Cooper awarded the inaugural Won Lee Prize

October 11, 2023

Calgary-based artist Athena Cooper awarded the inaugural Won Lee Prize

Administered by the National accessArts Centre, it is the largest cash prize awarded to a Canadian artist living with a disability

Toronto – The National accessArts Centre (NaAC), Canada’s largest disability arts organization with offices in Calgary and Toronto, is pleased to share that Calgary-based artist Athena Cooper has been awarded the inaugural Won Lee Prize. Announced at a ceremony that took place in Toronto on October 10, Ms. Cooper was selected by a national jury amongst a competitive pool of applicants from across the country. With support from the NaAC, the family of the late Won Lee, and the Endowment Incentives Program administered by the Government of Canada, the Won Lee Prize is the largest such prize dedicated to a Canadian artist living with a disability.

“Disability is about difference. This is something that I really want to put forward with my art. I would not paint the way that I paint if I wasn’t born with a disability. My perspective is informed by it.”

Athena Cooper, recipient of the 2023 Won Lee Prize

“I’d like to congratulate Athena for being the inaugural recipient of the Won Lee Prize. The jury was inspired by her incredible perspective as an artist, and her dedication to her practice.”

JS Ryu, President and CEO, National accessArts Centre

The Won Lee Prize celebrates the legacy of the late Canadian artist Won Lee, whose own life and artistic practice was affected by his disability. After his passing, his family and estate donated his permanent collection and a transformative gift to the National accessArts Centre, thereby creating the NaAC / Won Lee Endowment Fund and the Won Lee Prize. The NaAC’s Toronto studio and gallery is also named the Won Lee Community Arts Hub in his honour.

For more information or for interview requests with the recipient, please contact:

Jung-Suk (JS) Ryu
President and CEO
phone: 403.404.3174


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