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2015 BC Culture Days Ambassadors

Amanda Shatzko (Vernon) grew up in the Okanagan immersed in the arts as a child. There she was exposed to a healthy athletic lifestyle as well as an enticingly colorful environment both of which prove to be reoccurring factors throughout Amanda’s artwork. She is dedicated to creating memorable artistic encounters. Amanda has performed on stage for film and television, live for over 100,000 people, at corporate events and ceremonies and on behalf of multiple charities. Shatzko has had numerous commissions including an exhibition with The International Gallery Container Art for over 800,000 visitors. She was commissioned by the Government of Canada and WAC to create paintings of athletes live in Whistler/Vancouver during 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Amanda’s artwork can be found in the permanent collection of The Mayfair Boutique Hotels, in the private collections of numerous international clients, corporate entities and celebrities. As a scholar, Amanda holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Emily Carr), a Master of Arts in Intercultural and International Communication (Royal Roads), certifications (Harvard, Cambridge, Sotheby’s), and is a recipient of multiple scholarships and grants. Currently, Amanda is a doctoral student pursuing her Ph.D. at UBC. Amanda’s other accolades include: Top 40 Young Global Cultural Leader (GDP), Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women (WXN & Financial Post), BC’s 25 Most Powerful Women Leaders (BC Business Magazine), and BC Multicultural and Anti-Racism (BC Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture).

Culture Days Event: Her Culture Days event, combining both her passions in a unique way, was a live aerial painting demonstration at Vernon’s Performing Arts Theatre, where she created a complete painting while suspended in the air performing aerial movements. She also engaged the public through a TED-style artist talk, backstage tour, and participation from the audience in trying out her specialized flying equipment. Her event had the largest attendance (200 people) to date for a Culture Days event in the region. Activity registration numbers in Vernon also saw a growth of 53% from 2014.
INSTAGRAM: @amandashatzko
FACEBOOK: @AmandaShatzko
TWITTER: @amandashatzko

Una Bruhns (North Vancouver) was born in Johannesburg South Africa, then immigrated to Canada in 1969. She was the Haiku Sakura Award Winner at the Cherry Blossom Festival. She is a creative writer and has taught at John Braithwaite Community Centre in North Vancouver. She has published two poetry anthologies, two books, and three poems in Painters and Poets, Coffee Table Book, Stars in Our Hearts, and Best Poets & Poems (World Poetry Movement Utah). Her Videography credits include: Is Any Body There (About Alzheimer’s), shown at Kay Meek Theatre, West Vancouver, B.C. and Farewell Mandela, shown at U.B.C. World Poetry-Film Festival (2014). She was winner of the World Poetry Empowered Poet Award, Radio co-host at the World Poetry Co-Op Radio Café, and hosted World Poetry at the Spring Blossom Festival (Anvil Centre New Westminster, B.C.). She did readings at World Poetry, Pandora’s, JCC Vancouver & Bellingham U.S.A.

Culture Days Event: Una put her videography skills to use by conducting interviews with local artists participating in Culture Days, which BC Culture Days was able to share through social media. She was active in reaching out to writers groups, poets, musicians and dancers on the North Shore, inviting them to take part in her poetry-reading event, which was met with great success.

Nina Buddhdev (Coquitlam) is a UK born Artist of Fine Arts. Her inspirations come from her extensive training and ongoing learning of Classical Indian Music, Dance & Vedic Studies. Nina grew up in Britain during a period of demographic change. This influenced her enquiries and advanced her education for creating vital cultural pathways for engagement, connectivity and expression. Nina had the privilege to work with prolific diversity mentors of Arts Council of England. She received further education via Revenue Client companies. She created pilot projects with European Classical Arts Networks, Master Classical Musicians and Dancers, The Princes Trust (The patron of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, UK), BBC, LIFF, British Library, SAMA Arts Network, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and Multi-Cultural media networks. In UK she was collectively awarded and adored as an agent of change for the cultural development of community engagement. Nina is a proud daughter of a pioneering lineage whose heritage stems from Gujarat, India & Kenya. After extensive world travel, Nina is currently living in BC. For the last 5 years she has been a dedicated unifier for many classical artistes and heritage cultural projects. Nina Holds a BA(Hons) in Ceramic Sculpture and Fine Arts from DMU and RCA London. Amongst many Awarded & Televised projects is “The study of Tantric Temple Sculpture, dance form & philosophy of Khajuraho” – SOAS & British Council. The Legacies of British India – Princes Trust. All Night Healing Ragas Concert Series – Arts Council of England. BBC annual Indian Midnight Prom at the Royal Albert Hall, National Community Engagement Projects - Asian Music Circuit, Engagement of Cultural Tourism for the World Travel Market at the London Olympia. Nina freelances for connector projects with her established international mentors. Nina is passionate about positive diversity, collaboration and believes in the graceful outcomes of supportive education, enrichment and expansive perspectives.

Culture Days Event: Nina came on board with the objective to bridge the divisive gaps in the community and spark high-level understanding for cooperative work that compliments the campaign, as well as showcase all the diverse cultural groups in the community. Nina’s involvement with Culture Days was not only inspirational to her community, but to other Culture Days ambassadors. She was highly active in networking across the Tri-Cities, encouraging cultural groups and civic leaders to participate in the event. She brought considerable attention through her publicity efforts, connecting with a variety of media including, but not limited to: Spice Radio, TriCity Chinese News, TriCity Iranian Society News, Immigrant Magazine, Common Ground, Family Fun magazine, India Voice, Global Asian News, Explore Asia, Kathara News, La Source, Joy TV, SFU News, and Vancity Buzz. Nina had a total of seventeen activities registered throughout the weekend and across the Tri-Cities and Vancouver as part of a Traditional India Series. Activities included: a classical Indian music concert, a Bollywood dance workshop, traditional yoga and laughter yoga classes, cultural exchanges and visual arts presentations, artist demos, and temple tours. Nina’s involvement raised the Culture Days profile in the Tri-Cities to a level that did not exist before.

INSTAGRAM: @ninayogbhava
FACEBOOK: The Bandish Network

Svetlana Delous (Langley) is a Vancouver-based professional aerialist and co-founder of The Circus Lab Inc, which she launched in 2013 with hand-to-hand artist Jason Waugh. She coaches circus students to inspire the next generation of artists through her love for the circus arts as well as through precise technical teaching. Her most advanced students have earned invitations from thought-after circus schools and production companies.Her work in the world of circus as a performer has placed her on the Cirque du Soleil artist database, and ranges from touring shows to live television events, commercials, corporate entertainment, and theatrical productions.

Culture Days Event: Both Svetlana and her students acted as spokespeople for Culture Days on Global News in Vancouver and JoyTV. They reached out to communities in Langley and throughout the Fraser Valley, encouraging artists to present Culture Days events. For the Culture Days weekend itself they presented four circus workshops (Adults, Teens, Kids, Tots). This covered various common circus disciplines such as trapeze, juggling, handbalancing, trampoline and trampoline wall, aerial silk, and aerial hoop. The advanced Circus Lab students also presented a successful performance of Night at the Circus, to an audience of 80 people.
INSTAGRAM: @thecircuslab
FACEBOOK: @TheCircusLab
TWITTER: @TheCircusLabInc

Oliver McTavish-Wisden (Vancouver) is a cartoonist living in East Vancouver and president of Cloudscape Comics. He likes drawing short comics, playing music and programming arts. He is the creator of Amber City Comics and one-quarter of the band Sleuth. He acted as an ambassador in Vancouver; however, he was also responsible for organizing two Culture Days events as Visual Arts Programmer at Place des Arts in Coquitlam, and has since moved on to a position as Community Arts Programmer at the Moberley Arts and Cultural Centre in Vancouver.

Culture Days Event: Oliver presented a workshop, How to Make Mini-Comics at Cloudscape Comics HQ and throughout the year. At Place des Arts, a Night of the Arts and Family Day event were held. Adults were divided into blocks and taken to various classes, including singing, painting, drawing, and dancing. They were then able to eat dinner, relax, and chat about their experiences together. During Family Day, they ran portraiture exercises, facilitated a collaborative black and white landscape painting, and participated in comic jams with the students.
INSTAGRAM: @cloudscapecomics
FACEBOOK: @@Cloudscape
TWITTER: @CloudscapeComic

Daniela O’Fee (Kamloops) is a pianist and lifelong Kamloops resident who has explored artistic directions, including live solo performances at Harmony Sessions (Fenix Yoga) and the premiere of solo piano works of BC composers Ryan Noakes and Terrence O’Malley (Vancouver Pro-Musica Further Series). She appeared in recital with baritone Alan Corbishley (BC Living Arts) and with cellist Martin Krátký (Chamber Musicians of Kamloops), plus multiple performances with tenor Tomas Bijok and violinist Cvetozar Vutev. Passionate about supporting youth, Daniela teaches at her busy home studio and accompanies student singers and instrumentalists. As a returning faculty member at Kamloops Interior Summer School of Music, Daniela has initiated the senior collaborative music program, the visiting composer program and has played in the pit for Guys and Dolls and The Drowsy Chaperone. Daniela has served as artistic director for Music in the Round to benefit student scholarships (KISSM and Thompson Rivers University), as programmer for the 2012 City of Kamloops Old Courthouse Chamber Series and as co-founder of the TRU Chorus. Daniela completed her Bachelor of Music degree at University of Victoria with post-degree studies at Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy.

Culture Days Event: Her event, Live Piano and Yoga, encompassed new, modern, minimalist piano works of Canadian, Estonian, French, Italian, British and American composers performed on a heritage piano at a heritage venue as a soundscape for a yoga class. The activity gave the participants a physical and contemplative 9 framework in which to explore new music while experiencing the therapeutic value of live acoustic performance.

TWITTER: @DanielaOFee

Sarah Schmidt & Judy Nielsen (Nanaimo) Sarah is the former Executive Director of the Nanaimo Arts Council, and acted as Culture Days community coordinator for several years. Her co-ambassador, Judy Nielsen, is an active member of the Nanaimo arts community, creates mosaic art from tiles, glass, metal, pottery and random stuff - most of which is recycled. It started with a bathroom floor about 18 years ago and the ideas kept coming. Lately, Judy is doing more outdoor mosaicking and is getting involved in collaborative community projects to share the fun. Inspiration is everywhere and Judy enjoys how spaces come alive with the colours and texture of mosaic art. She has been a board member of Start With Art Nanaimo for three years and was a member of the 2014 Culture Days Organizing Committee. Sarah and Judy have worked together on the Make Your Own Mosaic event for Culture Days in 2014 and Upcycled Art event for Culture Days in 2013.

Culture Days Event: Sarah and Judy decided to partner together with Sarah taking on the admin/outreach/spokesperson role, while Judy led the activity itself. They presented the Collaborative Tile Quilt Mosaic event, which was a huge success, drawing about 75 participants. The 57 tiles created were then put on display as public art.

Miyuki Shinkai (Gibsons) Coming to North America from Japan, she found that expressing herself through art helped her overcome language and cultural barriers. She believes that we should be as one, respecting diverse cultures, uniqueness and individuality. She thinks freedom of thought and creativity promotes innovation. She is evolving her artistic practice by collaborating with communities and exhibiting in public areas with free access to a visual language, therefore, inclusive to all cultures. She earned a BA in English and Comparative Culture in Osaka, Japan and then continued her studies in Hawaii, California and Vermont, earning an MA in Social Administration at Georgia Southwestern State University with a minor in glass blowing. This eventually led her to the Pilchuck Glass School in Washington. Her husband, fellow artist Wayne Harjula and her own and operate a glass blowing studio in Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast, where recently they have made major progress in recycling glass material to sustain the glass making process and make it more affordable and accessible. Her passion is to outreach to the community by teaching and exhibiting art. Her goal is to continue serving the public through art initiation on an international scale.

Culture Days Event: Miyuki’s events consisted of family arts and crafts, as well as a Japanese calligraphy workshop. She encouraged registration of many activities, such as How to Build an Elephant Ice Cream Bowl with Liz de Beer at Gibsons Public Art Gallery and the past is present exhibit at the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archive.

FACEBOOK: @MellonGlassStudio

Mandeep Wirk (Coquitlam) is very much a global citizen and considers herself a lifelong student of culture. In 1920, her grandfather emigrated from the Punjab in India to Africa. Like her father, Mandeep was also born in Kenya but grew up in neighbouring Tanzania where her family had their sawmill business. In 1967, Mandeep immigrated as a little girl with her parents to Great Britain. It was at the English elementary school that had a strong emphasis on the arts, that Mandeep developed her passion for writing and painting. Then in 1972 when multiculturalism became official policy in Canada, Mandeep immigrated as a teenager with her parents to British Columbia. Mandeep received her Master of Arts degree in Psychology from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, where she worked with eminent cross-cultural psychologist, Dr. John W. Berry. She completed her undergraduate work and teacher training at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She also has a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA). Besides working in Canada, Mandeep has also taught in Japan. Mandeep Wirk is a visual artist, freelance journalist, social scientist, educator, poet, photographer, and social activist. In 2015, she was also artist-in-residence at the Surrey Art Gallery.

Culture Days Event: Mandeep invited people to contribute to the community art making project entitled Surrey’s Vibrant Cultural Mosaic, various mixed-media collages made with materials such as photos, candy wrappers, bread tags, and lentils.

Erica Skowron (Prince George) has been the principal oboist of the Prince George Symphony for more than 30 years. During this time she has also taught music in her home studio, has taught music classes at the Child Development Centre and has directed a church choir. She has also performed both as a vocal soloist and a oboe soloist at the Mostly Mozart Festival in Kelowna, BC and has the pleasure of touring much of the beautiful BC and Yukon with a small chamber group both singing and playing. She performs regularly with Alban Classical Artists. In addition to performing, Erica directs the Trinity United Church choir and has held the position for more than 25 years. She also taught music at the Child Development Centre for several years working with many special needs children. Erica completed the Orchestral training Program at the Royal Conservatory of Toronto. She holds an honours Bachelor in Music with a minor degree in Drama from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario studying oboe with James Mason, voice with Patricia Pascoe and drama with Leslie O’Dell. Prior to that she spent a year studying at the Conservatoire Nationale de Sant Maur in La Varrenne, France.

Culture Days Event: Her musical group, Alban Classical Artists presented three classical music concerts over the Culture Days weekend, including two concerts at the St. Andrews Church and one in a popular sushi restaurant.

Kat Wahamaa (Maple Ridge) Kat has been engaged in the arts and cultural community for over 40 in various areas including: music, dance, theatre, visual arts, community cultural development, advocacy and arts administration. She is a musical performer/touring artist and songwriter, a community arts facilitator and advocate for arts and social change and has coordinated numerous arts projects, festivals and special events and been active in a range of arts organizations throughout the lower mainland and beyond. Over the years she has championed local artists and initiatives and fostered connections between individuals and organizations on exhibitions, arts projects, festivals and events. In 2013, she received the Abbotsford Arts Council Christine Caldwell Outstanding Arts Advocate Award. She has personally experienced transformation, enrichment, cultural sharing and the joy of creating with others. She believes that the arts are integral to the full growth and development of all people and the advancement of humanity.

Culture Days Event: Kat facilitated two projects: Where the Light Gets In and River Songs and Stories. The first was a group collage session at The Act with more than 50 participants of all ages. Ten community members were invited to send in photos of openings, literal portals such as doors, windows, vistas in nature or photos related to what they see in their neighbourhood that opens them to new ideas, experiences or simply opens their hearts. The second, a performance of water/river themed music, was held at the Port Haney Wharf to an audience of 100 people in celebration of BC and International Rivers Day.
INSTAGRAM: @katwahamaa