Meet Keyanna Burgher. Keyanna is representing the community of Vernon this year as another one of our BC Culture Days Ambassadors. Originally from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Keyanna brought her talents as a writer, musician and playwright to B.C. while attending UBC for Creative Writing, eventually moving to Vernon, B.C. in 2015. Keyanna's work as a multi-disciplinary artist is remarkable but what is even more remarkable is her commitment to advocating for women and youth in the arts. We talk to Keyanna about arts initiatives in Vernon and what drives her to produce meaningful art.
Hi Keyanna! It seems you're constantly busy writing. What has been inspiring your recent work as of late?
I’ve been really passionate and focused on feminism over the past year. I want to empower women and girls. I’ve gotten to a point in my music and writing where I want to use my voice for something more than just entertainment. I really want to say something, to create awareness for issues that are so prevalent in our society and culture. It involves a lot more thinking about who my audience is, and has become a lot less about myself, which is actually quite refreshing.
I’ve always been interested in too many things. I found it especially frustrating when I was heading into university... I thought about going to theatre school to do acting, but I also wanted to focus on music and maybe just tour around with my band. At the same time, I was still really passionate about academics and wasn’t sure that I wanted to give up the comprehensiveness of university. I decided to go to UBC Vancouver to focus on film production. But in the end, while attending university, the fight between theatre and music and film lead me to the Creative Writing department– I could write scripts for the theatre, lyrics for songs, and screenplays for films. I could be involved in everything at once through something I’ve always loved but never really put my finger on– writing.
This has helped balance everything I’m working on, because I can focus on writing as the common thread. I’m always writing music (whether that results in an actual completed song is another story), and I’m slowly working away at a short novel, as well as a one-act play. The mediums, although they sound similar enough, are actually radically different and I find it energizing to bounce around between them. Many of my projects are perpetually unfinished, but I’m working on hopefully making things more public soon. Fingers crossed.
Nice. How about your involvement in the arts community in Vernon? What kind of opportunities have you found in your community to collaborate? What do you hope getting your community involved in Culture Days will achieve?
I was so lucky to land a job at the Vernon Community Arts Centre. I’m constantly surrounded by art in all mediums, and I get to coordinate a lot of events which involve collaborating with a ton of artists and musicians. My mind has been absolutely blown by the talent in this community, especially from youth. There are some high school-aged bands and solo musicians that are absolutely going to make it big and I feel incredibly lucky to be witnessing their beginnings. Vernon has so many venues for artists to collaborate, including studio spaces here at the Arts Centre, artist residencies at a variety of different non-for-profit venues, and so much many more. I’ve been here for over a year and I feel that I’ve just begun to crack the surface– and I’m right in the thick of it!
There are too many people who’ve been living in Vernon their whole lives who have no idea about the talent and opportunities in their community. I think Culture Days in particular will be a great way to create awareness about this. Through the Arts Centre, I’ll be coordinating a bunch of free workshops in a variety of mediums, as well as a “Coffee House” concert featuring young local musicians. But I’m most excited for my activity as Culture Days ambassador: I’ve gotten together 9 artists and partnered them with 9 seniors from a local seniors home, and they’ve been working together over the summer to create an art exhibit titled “Stories of the Past". The involved artists have created a body of work based on stories from their partnered senior’s past. It’s so beautiful, the work they’ve done so far. On the opening night of Culture Days (Friday, September 30), we’ll be having the opening reception, where we’ll get to see the final products as well as hear from the artists and the seniors about the process. What I love most about this is that art is connecting strangers, and bringing a variety of people together to one place to talk about stories and art and friendship and life. I think it will really create a sense of community, and I hope to continue this project every year.
That sounds like incredible work. You've also been working closely with initiatives that encourage the engagement of youth in the arts. How important are youth focused programs for communities and what kind of benefits do the programs hold?
It sounds cheesy to say, but youth are our future. It’s only logical to give them as many opportunities as possible to explore and grow and make mistakes and get messy and learn. Especially in the arts. Other than those of us involved directly in the arts, I think it’s one of those things that become “less important” when we get older. It’s cut more and more from the school systems. It’s cut from government funding. But that’s such a backwards way of thinking. We live for art. There’s art in the way we think, the way we love, the way we look at things. It’s important for youth to know that and to develop an artistic way of looking at the world. There is no end to the benefits artistic programs hold for our youth, from small communities to a global scale, for our mental health, our education and our economy.
Recently, we ran a program at the Arts Centre for youth at risk of being involved in criminal activity, and it was beautiful to see them focus their energy into art, and get really passionate about creating something positive. And the best part was- they were proud of themselves. They found they were good at something. It was incredible and important. I think I’m getting a bit preachy here, but you know what I mean. Start ‘em young. Hey kids! Get to your local arts centre and take some classes! Take part in Culture Days! Volunteer! Get involved!
Take a look at activities occurring in Vernon by checking out our website under activities.
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