Mayor's Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement

Profile image of Choo Chiat Goh

This award recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions over his or her lifetime to the cultural vibrancy of our city.

With the addition of the Lifetime Achievement Award, the program includes awards in fifteen categories, including performing and studio art forms, and support of the arts through volunteerism and philanthropy.

2017 recipient

Choo Chiat Goh 

Choo Chiat Goh is the co-founder of Goh Ballet Academy Canada. He trained at London’s Royal Ballet School and later graduated from the Beijing Dance Academy in 1959. He joined the National Ballet of China and, as their principal dancer, performed for more than 20 years. In 1977, Goh immigrated to Vancouver and founded the internationally respected Goh Ballet with his wife, Lin Yee Goh. Goh Ballet has played a vital role in nurturing and providing the highest quality training for young dancers. The Goh Ballet Youth Company has been invited to perform and represent Canada internationally. Goh Ballet’s alumni garner top competitive prizes and perform with leading companies.

Choo Chiat Goh has spent more than 40 years passionately serving the Vancouver community. He is a lifelong advocate for the arts and is devoted to creating performance opportunities for young dancers to realize their fullest potential.

Past recipients

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Gordon Smith


Gordon Smith is a key figure in contemporary Canadian art. For 75 years, he has worked to expand the dialogue between abstraction and representation.

Throughout his career he has made paintings employing a procedure of looping and overlapping, the movement of line to line, texture into texture and colour into colour. Gordon immigrated to Canada in 1933 where he attended the Winnipeg School of Art. Upon his return from fighting in WWII, he settled with his wife, Marion, in Vancouver, and graduated from the Vancouver School of Art.

His awards include the Order of Canada (1996) and the Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts (2007). Gordon’s work is included in the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), Museum of Modern Art (New York), Victoria and Albert Museum (London), and the Vancouver Art Gallery. He lives and works in West Vancouver, BC.

Joy Coghill, C.M.


Joy Coghill, veteran actor and trailblazer, is a consummate stage and screen performer, teacher and director. As Artistic Director, she was the first woman to head the Vancouver Playhouse, commissioning such legendary plays as George Ryga’s Grass and Wild Strawberries and The Ecstasy of Rita Joe. Later, she headed the National Theatre School’s English Acting Section, receiving the first Gascon-Thomas Award in 1985.

Renowned for breaking new and innovative ground, in 1953 she founded Holiday Theatre, the first Canadian professional theatre for children. In 1994, she came full circle founding Western Gold, the first professional theatre of senior performers. Joy is Honorary President of PAL Vancouver, the 111-suite affordable housing and theatre complex that she co-founded in 2006 with Jane Heyman.

Recognized with honorary degrees from Simon Fraser University and the University of BC, Joy is a member of the Order of Canada and received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award in 2002.



Al Neil


Al NeilAl Neil was born in Vancouver in 1924. During World War II, he served in the Canadian Army in Normandy, Belgium, Holland, and Germany.

An accomplished jazz pianist during the 1950s, Al was one of the founders of the original Cellar Jazz Club and performed with artists such as Art Pepper, Conte Candoli, and Kenneth Patchen.

Over the next three decades, Al became known for combining music with text, art assemblages, projections and prepared tapes. In the 1980s and 90s, his collage works were exhibited extensively. His writing includes the books West Coast Lokas, Slammer, and Changes. In 1989, Origins, writings by and about Al and his work, was published.

In 2008, Neil received an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Although his work is known across the country, he has always lived and worked in Vancouver and Dollarton, BC.

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander


Mayor's Arts Awards Lifetime Achievement 2013 honouree Cornelia Hahn OberlanderCornelia Hahn Oberlander, Landscape Architect, OC FCSLA FASLA LMBCSLA, has collaborated in a wide range of projects over the last 60 years with internationally acclaimed architects such as Renzo Piano on the New York Times Building, Moshe Safdie on the National Gallery of Canada and the Vancouver Public Library, and Arthur Erickson on Robson Square and the Museum of Anthropology. All were based on design concepts and studies of cultural and physical features of a given site.

Oberlander has always been mindful of the environment and is a leader in green solutions. As Canada’s premier landscape architect, she is known for integrating her designs in the overall architectural project using the natural environment, yet always adding a unique new vision and dimension.

In 2011, the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) bestowed on Oberlander its highest honour, the Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe Award, for her endeavors in building a greener future over the many years of her career.

In 2012, she received the highest honour of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the ASLA Medal, “in recognition of her unfaltering leadership and award-winning work in postwar landscape architecture in Canada and the United States. She is the embodiment of the multidisciplinary landscape architect who perpetually pursues aesthetic, ecological and technical possibilities to achieve worldwide community well-being.”

Tom Cone


Tom Cone, 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award honoureeTom Cone (1947 – 2012) was born in Miami, Florida and chose Vancouver as the home from which he launched a decades-long career as a playwright, librettist, teacher, and impresario, beginning with the 1927 CBC Radio Drama production of his play There.

This was followed by a string of plays that put Tom Cone and Vancouver on the theatrical map: Cubistique (1974), Herringbone (1975), Whisper To Mendelsohn (1975), The Imaginary Invalid (1975), Beautiful Tigers (1976), Shotglass (1977), Stargazing (1978), 1792 (1978), and The Writer’s Show (1978).

Believing that artists and audiences could be brought together by considering economies of scale, Tom has commissioned new works from Vancouver’s most adventurous composers and improvising musicians, works which were often then performed in Tom and Karen Matthews’ home – with fees paid through a collection at the door.

Tom went on to found and co-found a number of innovative, wildly successful collaborative artist-oriented projects including SONG ROOM, a salon for the commissioning of new song collaborations between Vancouver composers and writers, with Karen Matthews and David Pay of Music on Main.