Nipissing artist Aylan Couchie is among 107 graduates from across Ontario who have been nominated for this year's Premier’s Award.

Nipissing artist and Georgian College Art and Design Fundamentals and Fine Arts–Advanced alumna, Aylan Couchie, receives the 2016 Colleges Ontario Premier’s Award in the Recent Graduate category.

BARRIE, ON (November 23, 2016)–Georgian College Art and Design Fundamentals and Fine Arts – Advanced alumna Aylan Couchie has been named the winner of the prestigious 2016 Colleges Ontario Premier’s Awards in the Recent Graduate category. Couchie – an award-winning Anishinaabe artist, community organizer and aspiring writer – was recognized at a ceremony in Toronto on Monday, Nov. 21.

The Premier’s Awards are granted to six individuals across the province annually and celebrate the outstanding contributions college graduates make to Ontario and throughout the world. More than 100 nominations were submitted by Ontario’s 24 public colleges in six categories: Business, Creative Arts and Design, Community Services, Health Sciences, Recent Graduate, and Technology.

“Georgian College gave me the literal and figurative space to determine which areas of the arts I wanted to concentrate on and provided me with the foundation to move on to additional studies,” says Couchie, who graduated from Georgian in 2015. “There were so many incredible candidates nominated in my category and I am humbled to be chosen for this special distinction.”

Just a year out of college, Couchie has built an impressive list of career achievements. In August 2015, she was chosen from over 950 entries worldwide to receive the Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award from the U.S.-based International Sculpture Center. Less than a month later, Couchie was honoured with the inaugural Native Women in the Arts Barbara Laronde Award, which celebrates the career of one outstanding, emerging Northern Ontario-based Indigenous female artist. Her artwork has also been featured in Sculpture magazine, an international publication that is distributed in more than 70 countries and has a readership of 37,000.

Couchie was also the winner of the Pratt Homes Sculpture competition that hand-selected four artists to design a sculpture to sit atop their new condominium in Barrie, as well as a rooftop patio piece and select works throughout the interior. Her work was chosen by the public against three seasoned and highly-esteemed sculptors. Once built, the piece (H.I.O. Big Chiefs) will be seen from Highway 400 as it looks out over Kempenfelt Bay in tribute to the Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Anishinabek nations.

Couchie has also made an indelible impact on the community. In 2014, she organized and launched Barrie’s first downtown art crawl, which featured local artists, fostered new relationships within the downtown merchant core, and led to partnerships that continue today.

Couchie says she is inspired by her grandfather, a residential school survivor whose passed-down teachings greatly influenced her work and encouraged her to return to college as a mature student and single mother of three teenage boys.

Despite the many accolades, Couchie feels the most important part of her work is being part of the larger conversation about First Nations realities, including murdered and missing Indigenous women, current actualities facing First Nations communities across Canada, and residential school legacies.

Couchie wasn’t the only winner at the Premier’s Awards – Georgian College Nursing alumna Dianne Martin won in the Health Sciences category.

Four other accomplished Georgian nominees were considered for the 2016 Colleges Ontario Premier’s Awards:

  • Business Administration alumnus Bryan Marshman (Community Services category)
  • Business Administration – Automotive Marketing alumnus Peter Grande (Business category)
  • Survey Technician alumnus Peter Sullivan (Technology category)
  • Fine Arts alumnus Robert Hengeveld (Creative Arts and Design category)

“We are very proud of Aylan Couchie and our other nominees, both past and present,” says MaryLynn West-Moynes, President and CEO of Georgian College. “They are all shining examples of how a college education can be a springboard to incredible life and career success.”