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LINDA JANE ZWICKER

 

WITH GREAT PAIN we share here the loss of our best friend who happened to be our only sister, Linda Zwicker, at the untimely age of 48, from cancer.

Her 15-episode drama Panther and Jaguar, based on the relationship between H. G. Wells and Rebecca West, launched daily drama on CBC's Morningside. It also won the ACTRA award as "Best Radio Program for 1983-Drama or Documentary".

The laurel came little more than a year after she riskily stepped out of a well-paid arts administration job into solo freelancing.

Three years later she won the ACTRA award "Best Writer-Radio Drama" for her 10-part series Grey Pearls, also broad-cast on Morningside. It was based on the last two years in the life of composer Robert Schumann. She was three times an ACTRA finalist nominee.

In the first decade of her freelance writing career, which was to be her last, besides nine radio plays and drama series she wrote three screenplays, three stage plays, three novels and two TV scripts. One of these, Easter in Igloolik, won the Columbus (Ohio) Film Festival Bronze Plaque, Jury Choice.

Her two published novels, The Blue Hope Chest of Arabella King and Misfits and Miracles, are part of the Road to Avonlea series for young readers. A 1992/93 novel, Sweetie Pies, was uncompleted, as was Cancerland, a book she hoped would record her successful struggle with melanoma against 100-to-l odds.

Born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Linda grew up in Alberta, graduated from the University of Alberta's music program and did post graduate work toward a Master of Music at the University of Texas in Austin before moving to Toronto in 1968.

She was arts education officer for the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) for eight years. We remember the highly imaginative "Music Box" she pioneered to interest young students in music. Hundreds were distributed to Ontario schools. A huge wicker basket, it was filled with a cornucopia of musical stuff-instruments familiar and odd, scores traditional and contemporary, artifacts relevant and whimsical.

She went on to become administrative director of Toronto Arts Productions (now The Canadian Stage Company) for three years before launching her writing career.

She immediately became active in ACTRA. Then, as Jack Gray, president of the Writers Guild of Canada (WGC) wrote, Linda became "part of the team that developed the basic push for the WGC, helped put together the original proposals, and was at the centre of our fight with ideas and militant sense of fun."

And as her playwright colleague David Young recalled at a memorial event, Linda was tapped to serve on the board of Coach House Press when that yeasty Canadian institution was beset by problems. "She saved Coach House Press," said Young.

Linda took a great interest in Sources. She suggested organizations that should be listed, listened to our problems, responded with practical suggestions, did not criticize if we failed to carry out a suggestion. Above all she was always upbeat and supportive. This was typical of her approach to colleagues, to scripts, to organizations, to friends, to family, to life.

Linda's friends approached the Ontario Arts Council Foundation to establish a fund to honour her memory. Sarah Iley and her staff responded immediately with understanding and efficiency. We offered to Sarah to be supportive of this new Foundation, to begin with by sharing information about it. We believe Linda, as a former OAC officer, would have made the practical suggestion of plugging the Foundation. "It's worth it. Go ahead and do it," we can imagine her counselling. It follows.



IT IS FITTING that a memorial fund should be set up through the Ontario Arts Council Foundation for Linda Zwicker, who was an artist in words and music and in shaping her life and its impact on others.

The Foundation itself is noteworthy, being a new-and much-needed-approach to funding artists directly and in perpetuity. It's also a fund that provides fiscal benefits for the living who contribute to its endowments.

No support for individuals in the arts is more direct or imaginative. The Foundation enjoys the expertise, staff and administrative resources of the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) but is separately constituted from the OAC, with its own board of directors. No art form is excluded, no region (of Ontario) denied access. It should be noted that the OAC has been the most generous of all the provincialarts councils in supporting national programs for magazine and book publishing and the visual and performing arts.

The Foundation's sole purpose is the responsible stewardship of donations which will go to the arts and artists in perpetuity. Within that a remarkable range of human flexibility is entertained. Donors can specify a particular arts discipline, or encourage experimentation and innovation, endow a fund in their family 's name, memorialize someone else or con-tribute to the success of the arts in a particular community, for instance.As well as cash donations the Foundation welcomes gifts of property and securities. Advisors can help donors realize significant tax advantages through planned giving.

Artistic creation is a significant force making society worthwhile, yet artists are forced to struggle more than most. Youngsters should be exposed to vibrant arts experiences at a young age, yet in 1990 only six per cent of Ontario's schools accessed the OAC program which takes arts into the classroom. This was a program to which Linda devoted a significant part of her too brief life.

Those who would like to contribute to the Foundation or learn more may call Sarah Iley at (416) 961-1660, or toll free 1-800-387-0058. Or write her at the Foundation, 151 Bloor Street West, Suite 500, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1T6.

 

Published in Sources, Summer 1993



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