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courtesy of the DEAF CULTURE CENTRE
All Canadians have carried a piece of this woman’s work in their pockets at one time or another, but probably didn’t know the hands and mind behind artwork. Dora de Pedery Hunt is that Canadian treasure, much like the national coins and landmark sculptures she’s created for more than 70 years.
She has been coined one of Canada’s pre-eminent sculptors and medallists and specializes in designing Canadian coins, medals, awards and sculptures. In 1976, Hunt created the Olympic gold coin and would later go on to create the effigy of the Queen on all Canadian coins from 1990 through to 2003. It marked the first time the effigy of the Queen was designed by a Canadian artist.
Born in Budapest, Hunt made the journey to Canada in 1948 after completing her masters at the Royal School of Applied Arts in Budapest. Now, at 95, she reflects on her accomplishments and believes her secret to success is rooted in her belief of always paying it forward, giving back, mentoring and a touch of humility.
Recently, Hunt created the brass sculpted door handles to the entrance of the Deaf Culture Centre located in the Distillery District. She is also a juror to both the Emanuel Hahn Scholarship and the Dora de Pedery Hunt Medal Award Committee at the Ontario College of Art & Design and sits as the honorary director of The Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour.
“I’ve taught arts classes for over 11 years and I’ve always tried to instil in my students the sense that nothing is entitled to them in this industry. You must work towards gaining the respect and admiration of those who will later write about you, critique your work and teach their classes based on your contributions to the art form,” says Hunt.
For her artistic acumen, Hunt has racked up numerous awards including the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, the Order of Canada, the Centennial Medal, as well as a plethora of honorary doctorate degrees including one in law from the University of Waterloo, reflecting her work as an activist for arts education and access to resources, and ones in literature from both York University and the University of Toronto.
In her lengthy career Hunt often faced the challenge of sexism, especially in her earlier years as she built her status within the arts world. She quickly realized it was up to her to find a working strategy to overcome it. “Oftentimes if we are unable to find balance with the stress we experience in our everyday lives, it takes away from our creative energy leaving us to doubt our artistic abilities."
“I encourage students and emerging artists to look at their personal lives, their relationships with others first before looking to criticize their abilities to create good art,” says Hunt.
She knows the arts world can be very competitive with only a handful experiencing the status she has achieved. “In the art world you have to be prepared to defend your work. You need to know why you’ve created it and the message you want it to have to your audience.
“Not everyone will get it and you might have to fight for it, but that is part of the journey of becoming a passionate artist. That and being able to help those around you even while you are still on your way to the top.”