The winner of the annual Icelandic arts award Eyrarrós, dedicated to celebrating projects taking place in the rural regions of Iceland, was announced yesterday at a ceremony in Ísafjörður.
A total of 44 projects applied via open submission, out of which the jury selected a final three. The finalists travelled to Ísafjörður for the award ceremony, traditionally held at the site of the previous winner. This year, that meant a party aboard the Húni II, which won the 2014 award for shipping a band fronted by Mugison around Iceland’s coastline on an adventurous seaborne tour.
Along with the various administering organisations and sponsors, the finalists mingled amongst the throng in the dripping but cosy hold of the of Húni II. The ship’s crew, who had sailed to Ísafjörður from Akureyri for the event in difficult winter conditions, were joined the mayor of Ísafjörður, various local art folks, the ship’s house band, and the guests of honour – the Icelandic prez, and his First Lady Dorrit Moussaieff, the prize’s patron.
After some speeches praising the quality and breadth of the applications, Dorrit announced Frystiklefinn (trans: The Freezer) as the winner of the 1.65m ISK first prize. “There’s so much talent out there in Iceland,” said Dorrit, speaking exclusively to Reykjavík Grapevine, of which she’s apparently an avid reader. “It’s very hard to pick a winner. But I’m happy with the outcome, of course – it’s a great project, and I’m fond of Snæfellsnes.”
Located in the tiny 165-person town of Rif, Frystiklefinn is a social hostel, independent theatre and artist residency run by actor and musician Kári Viðarsson (pictured above, left).
“This is going to make a huge difference to us,” said Kári. “It’s going to allow us to finish the living facilities for the artists. That’s the only part of the house that isn’t finished. It’s going to increase our potential a lot.”
But as well as the money, the attention that Eyrarrós brings is a significant aspect of the prize. “I’ve been working hard on this for five years, so the recognition is really important too,” said Kári, beaming with pride.
As the Áhöfnin á Húna house band struck up some songs in the back of the hold, the prize winners mingled with the various dignitaries in attendance. “It’s very helpful for us to be nominated for this prize,” said Inga Jónsdottir of the Listasafn Árnesinga, one of the two 300,000 ISK runners-up. “We now get to be interviewed by Reykjavík Grapevine, for a start! It helps shine a light on our programme.”
Based in Hveragerði, Listasafn Árnesinga has a programme that celebrates diversity in the arts. “We currently have a show about the joins between art and sustainability,” explained Inga, “and next we’ll have a show by Sirra Sigrún Sigurðardóttir. She’s one of the founders of Kling & Bang, but she’s originally from Selfoss. She has been getting some international attention, so we thought it was time to present to work to the area.”
The final runner-up was the tongue-twisting Sköpunarmiðstöðin Stöðvarfirði (also known, thankfully, as the HERE Creative Centre). Also housed in a redeveloped fish factory, this organisation operates in a tiny town in the Eastfjörds. “There are only 160 people in our town,” said project representative Una Björg Sigurðardóttir, “but when we throw parties and hold events, most of the town comes along. We get a really nice reception. It also means the resident artists we have can get integrated right away by meeting pretty much the whole town.”
While the amounts of money on offer from Eyrarrósin are quite modest, they can be hugely helpful to arts projects, which often run as much on enthusiasm and dogged commitment as stable income. “This prize is a recognition for excellence in culture projects outside of Reykjavík,” said Ingi Rafn, one of the organisers behind the prize. “Casting a spotlight on such efforts in the cultural sphere is our job. There are so many unbelievable projects going on outside of Reykjavík. With so much effort, work and passion behind these projects, being able to spotlight their efforts makes Eyrarrós extremely rewarding and worthwhile.”