2019 BC Culture Days Ambassadors
Tiffany Blaise (Vancouver) — Visual artist
Culture Days Event: Tiffany presented Canvases and Coffee! Painting the Local Landscape, a guided painting session of a West Coast landscape over a two-hour session, which took place at the Roundhouse Community Centre. She also facilitated a collaborative painting activity during the opening of Culture Days at the CBC Plaza.
Mentor: Painter, Gabryel Harrison.
Impact Statement: “The ambassador program was an inspiring and fulfilling experience, which helped me to both further my craft and inspire others to paint. The mentorship from the BC Culture Days program was my favourite part of the ambassador program because it enabled me to learn from a professional artist through studio visits, critiques, the sharing of resources and industry contacts, and trips to different exhibitions around the city. My mentor, Gabryel Harrison, remains a good friend and wonderful mentor with who I regularly consult when I need a second opinion, and continues to help me further my practice through advising on artistic techniques, sharing art books or educational resources, and connecting me with artists and gallerists. In turn, I help her with technology-related tasks, such as social media or website questions!
As a result of her referrals, I look forward to showing my artwork alongside hers at Gild and Co, and possibly having the opportunity to show at Van Dop gallery!“
Brock Gratz (Kelowna) — Animation Station Brock specializes in multimedia creations that make use of new technologies and time-honoured traditional techniques to make interesting and engaging experiences. Brock is also one of the producers of Kelowna Fan Experience, an ongoing Arts and Media festival.
Culture Days Event: Brock presented Animation Station, a workshop at New Vintage Theatre dedicated to making animation accessible through painting, drawing, and digital animation technology. All participants’ works were included as part of a large animated collage.
Impact Statement: “My experience with Culture Days as an organization was especially fruitful. It proved to be a valuable opportunity for me as a Visual Arts major at the time, providing both a public platform and visibility in the community. This was absolutely invaluable during the following year where participants in the Animation Station activity I ran as well as artists and organizations in Kelowna’s Visual and Performing Arts sphere kept in contact with me. This networking led to new opportunities with local organizations, as well as a return to the BC Culture Days event the following year in 2020 where I led a workshop on outdoor watercolours with the Rotary Centre for the Arts hub.
I think BC Culture Days provides a great opportunity for the community at large and artists alike by supporting- conceptually and monetarily- the fostering of more arts in areas across Canada. Integrating elements of the fine arts, of all disciplines, in different ways into any city or town benefits everyone by creating a lively, welcoming and exciting atmosphere that leads to more opportunities for people of all backgrounds and all levels of society to collaborate, discuss and contribute meaningfully to a bigger conversation that helps shape their surroundings. The greatest argument in favour of the fine arts in Canada is the measurable, meaningful effect it has on the mental state and wellbeing of people within our communities. Having an outlet with which to socialize, share and articulate one’s feelings through a constructive process builds an outlook and a method of being. When we make something and contemplate why we’re making it, we can apply that same thinking to our daily lives and make choices that are better for our wellbeing and the wellbeing of others.“
Molly Gray (Fort Langley) — Molly Gray is a printmaker.
Culture Days Event: Molly presented Carve Out Your Place!, a step-by-step workshop on the basic principles of linocut printmaking. Participants carved a one-of-a-kind relief print (stamp) to take home.
Mentor: Printmaker, Jocelyn Barrable Segal.
Impact Statement: “Firstly I want to say how thankful I am for the opportunity to have been an art ambassador in 2019. The overall experience was wonderful and allowed me to push my boundaries beyond my comfort zone. I’m sure it is safe to say that Covid-19 has impacted much of what 2020 has had to offer, not only to life in general but more importantly for this discussion, about artistic growth and opportunity. Before things were considered a full-blown pandemic, 2020 was looking to be my most successful year as an artist. I applied/bid for an illustrating job and won - illustrated my first book, became the copy editor, book formatter, and communicated with the printing company. At the same time, I was also working on a creative collaboration for a children’s clothing company and then Covid-19 hit, and much like things were ramping up, they came to an immediate halt.
Despite the pandemic, over the last year I have been working non-stop on many different collections, and teaching myself new printing techniques. To see everything you can check out my new website (which I created) at www.goatandpebble.com. The following collections have all been made in the past year since participating as an art ambassador: Gray’s Anatomy Prints, Birch Tree Paintings, Australian Animals, Spring Florals, Farm Animals, Sunset Reduction Prints, Seafaring, and Urban Animals - the collaboration with a children’s clothing company (they decided to postpone the release until after Covid-19).
In the summer I participated in a virtual plein art painting competition with Mission Arts Council and won an honourable mention.
In late winter/early spring of 2021, I will be participating in a group printmaking show organized by a fellow printmaker I met on Instagram, which will take place at the North Van Arts Council. I believe that my mentor and other artists from Malaspina Printmaker’s Society will also be participating, but I do not know for sure.
The overall experience of being a Culture Days art ambassador taught me to boldly seek out opportunities, like the illustrating job I had at the beginning of the year. As for professional development I am continuing to learn new techniques, but mainly, I am focusing on mental health and taking things one day at a time. Often what that looks like for me is making art, but some days it’s taking a long nap, and that’s OKAY!“
Alyssa Martens (Vancouver) — Alyssa is a poet and writer focused on the environment.
Culture Days Event: Alyssa presented A Poetic Landscape, a tour along a marked pathway at the UBC’s Library Garden where participants were invited to read landscape-inspired poetry and to practice the art of natural observation. Participants also learned how to write a micro poem, and contribute to a growing forest of “poe-trees” branching together reflections from members of the Vancouver community.
Mentor: Eco Artist, Pierre Leichner.
Impact Statement: “Since acting as a 2019 BC Culture Days Ambassador, and having the opportunity to organize my first community-engaged environmental art exhibit, I have taken on a number of different projects and contracts. Largely, this is due to the insights I received from my mentorship with Pierre Leichner, who has remained in contact with me since the program’s ending. After participating in BC Culture Days, I realized that I wanted to pursue community-engaged work more intentionally. I began teaching workshops with DAREarts, an organization that empowers underserved youth across Canada to develop leadership skills through arts-based education. Through funding from the International Centre of Art for Social Change (ICASC), I also participated in the second cohort of the FUTURES/forward program, and worked as an environmental artist for Sierra Club BC under the mentorship of a senior artist Dr. Claire Robson. This opportunity was motivated by an endorsement from BC Culture Days staff, who thought that I would be a good fit for the competitive program. Through the FUTURES/forward partnership, I was able to create a brand new creative writing curriculum for Sierra Club BC’s Education department, and I piloted its first iteration in the summer of 2020. The resources created from this program are now available to educators across BC interested in pursuing environmental topics with Grades 6-9 Language Arts classrooms. Currently, I am working in a triad partnership with the City of Vancouver and South Vancouver Neighbourhood House on a placemaking project aimed at enhancing stories of Victoria-Fraserview neighbourhood residents through visual art in public spaces. My mentorship with Pierre Leichner at BC Culture Days taught me to re-think public space, and how citizens interact with it. This perspective has influenced my work tremendously and it continues to affect how I approach community-engaged work.
All of these community-engaged arts projects have enabled a dynamic, interesting year of work. My network continues to grow, and I look forward to the opportunities ahead, both in person and in virtual settings.“
Mundia Kabunda (West Kelowna) — Mundia is a singer and theatre artists currently doing Indigenous Studies at UBC Okanagan.
Culture Days Event: Mundia’s project Kinfolk Presents Ubuntu’s Children, a collaborative storytelling project inviting youth to express their creativity through theatre, music, and poetry. Her event was held at Studio 9 School for the Arts and involved working with youth from marginalized communities.
Mentor: Kelowna Arts Council Executive Director, Lynda Norman.
Impact Statement: “Since my program called Kinfolk Presents Ubuntu’s Children, I have been able to keep in contact with my mentor and the youth that I worked with. Three of the youth that were in my program participated in a show I put on for Culture Days this year called The Bird Who Forgot How To Sing, we performed at the Rotary Centre for the Arts here in Kelowna. They had various roles, one girl created her own dance to a song I wrote and performed it on stage, the other was a dancer in choreographed dance number, and the other was behind the scenes acting as a stage director.
At another time, I had one of my other teens connect with Mariel Belanger, an Indigenous performing artist and gain some mentorship from her.
In regards to my mentor, she supported me in terms of finding a space when I needed to put a fundraiser on for a group of Nigerian University students that were involved in a crash that took their lives. She is still a great presence in my life and I know she is a phone call away which is great. I have taken my program to places like the Boys and Girls club and the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society because I see that it is helpful to teenagers. The directors loved the program and now we are working on implementation, with new guidelines because of Covid. Overall, being an ambassador has opened my mind and doors to cool new opportunities and has helped me maintain those that were created.“
Julian Legere (New Westminster) — Julian is a Theatre artist and writer.
Culture Days Event: Julian presented The Creative Wellness Challenge, an online challenge and hands-on workshop at the Massey Theatre to inspire daily creativity. The workshop gave participants the tools to speak their favourite monologues from movies, TV, and theatre, and great speeches from history.
Mentor: Playwright, Janet Hinton.
Impact Statement: “After bring focused for many years on performing, producing, and directing, my Ambassador Mentorship with Janet Hinton allowed me to return my focus to the craft of writing (more specifically, playwrighting.) The knowledge and understanding I’ve gained about how a play is constructed, how it operates on an audience, and how to tap into and become part of the historical current of the art form has resulted in an enormous creative resurgence for me as a writer.
As a direct result of the mentorship, and the knowledge I gained from it, I have maintained a relatively consistent writing practice for the first time in many years. I have completed drafts of two plays (a 10- minute satirical dramedy about homophobia, and a 1-act science fiction play about the impacts of the climate crisis,) with several others in process. The 10-minute was accepted into the inaugural “Or Festival” in Vancouver (which was unfortunately postponed due to COVID.) The 1-act was submitted to a Commission program for Vancouver’s UpInTheAir Theatre, and another 1-act I’m currently working on (about a TV interview with the mother of a fictional mass shooter) will be submitted to the Playwright’s Theatre Centre Fringe New Play Prize this month. This is in addition to two informal commissions I am working on with companies that I have worked with previously in other capacities as a performer, producer, and administrator - one a stage combat centred historical drama about 17th-century bisexual fencer/opera singer Julie D’Aubigny, and the other a short-form episodic live sci-fi parody.
In addition to Playwrighting, my writing practice more broadly has also been reinvigorated. I’ve built a portfolio and am working on several pitches for journalistic non-fiction pieces, as well as a number of short stories for which I’m currently researching publication opportunities. Even in the final days of the mentorship, I felt that it would prove to be a profound experience for me, and would mark a big and exciting shift in my artistic practice and career, and I’m thrilled that now, a year later, that momentum has only continued to build.“
Sebastian Nicholson (Prince George) — Sebastian is a visual artist.
Culture Days Event: Sebastian presented The Spores of Joy, a Prince George-wide treasure hunt for hidden mushroom castings painted by the community itself.
Mentor: Painter, Cat Sivertsen.
Impact Statement: “The BC Culture Days Ambassador and Mentorship programs were a real learning experience. I was given the autonomy to pursue my passion and create a cohesive and effective public art installation. I am still getting thank you emails from people who come across the surreal fungal sculptures and I have since been given the opportunity to share my experience and knowledge with youth groups as well as local organizations. My project, The Spores of Joy, had a second installation in the following summer of 2020 with the support of Two Rivers Gallery. It was an incredible success and very accessible as a socially distant, outdoor activity during the covid19 pandemic. My 2019 summer as an ambassador has created long lasting connections and art that I am so excited to see in my community. I am privileged to have been a BC Culture Days ambassador and I will be able to reflect on this very unique experience as I continue my career. The mentorship program gave me the knowledge and life experience needed to excel in my BC Culture Days project and any future endeavors. My mentor, Cat Sivertsen, is an incredibly accomplished artist and I am grateful to Culture Days and CSARN for facilitating a really positive friendship.”
Olivier Salvas (Vancouver) — Olivier is a visual artist and teacher.
Culture Days Event: Olivier presented Rebel with a Cause: Exploring the Maker Movement, a hands-on creative exploration of the connections between the arts and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. His workshop was presented at the CBC Vancouver hub. He also acted as emcee for the Jack Poole Plaza pop-up event and the first day of the Culture Days hub at CBC Vancouver.
Mentor: Multimedia Artist and Curator, Paul Wong.
Impact Statement: “The last year had a turn out that was completely different than what I would have anticipated, like for all of us. When the pandemic started, I have begun organizing virtual shows, both for my practice and for local drag artists. Organizing an event, no matter at what scale, is not something I had ever planned this year, but I feel my mentorship with Paul Wong in planning Pride in Chinatown has really supported me in making these events successful. My events got media coverage on both CBC and Radio-Canada, something I never would have seen coming. The network I have made with meeting fellow artists at Culture Days has allowed me to add them in my show and to create something meaning, that raised money for local charities in the time of need. I also have been given a great opportunity to work with Vancouver Biennale Artoport_making Waves and IOC_Unesco on a project about the Ocean Health and the repercussion of climate change on the Pacific Ocean. I am working on this project as artist-educator. I feel overall the experience as a BC Culture Days ambassador has given me more strength and confidence to apply for markets, exhibitions and to trust myself when planning and organizing events. I still feel I am building my network but I definitely see a growth in my career compared to where I was a year ago, even with the pandemic.”
Emily Shin (Richmond) — Emily is a self-taught painter.
Culture Days Event: Emily presented Create Your Own Masterpiece, a painting party at the Richmond Cultural Centre inviting participants of all skill levels to create their own masterpiece.
Mentor: Painter, Loraine Wellman.
Impact Statement: “Through the BC Culture days Ambassador program, I got to work with a lot of different people in the community. As an emerging and self-taught artist, I did not have a lot of opportunity to connect or work with other artists. The three months I spent with my mentor Loraine was incredible. I got to see art through a professional artist’s eyes. She guided me through the planning of my Culture Days event. She brought me to some competitions, events, and exhibitions in the community to help my artworks gaining exposure. I have also met a lot of other professionals in the art community through her. I truly benefit from her expertise, knowledge, and networks.
After my Culture Days event last year, more students showed interest to join my painting class. Now I teach a children class and adult class on my spare time. I have been focusing on teaching more than creating my own work the last half a year. It is such a rewarding feeling to help others in their art journey. I gained a lot in the BC Culture Days Ambassador program, and I think it’s time to give back by promoting art and sharing my knowledge with others.“
YOUTUBE: Emily Art Gallery
Dyana Sonik-Henderson (Victoria) — is a dancer, creator of Rhythmical Contemporary dance, and founder/artistic director of Broken Rhythms.
Culture Days Event: Dyana presented Rhythmical Contemporary dance workshops.
Mentor: Former contemporary dancer, teacher, and choreographer Lynda Raino. Both Dyana and Lynda presented a workshop together for dancers age 60+.
Impact Statement: “Dyana Sonik-Henderson, artistic director of Broken Rhythms society has had an eventful year both as an ambassador and as an artist during COVID. Plans for a premier work in March had to be postponed then canceled and she was set to choreograph and participate in the Victoria Fringe festival which was also subsequently canceled. As an artist, whose main source of income immediately dissipated the importance of arts and culture has been in the forefront of her mind. Dyana has taken on some additional projects to continue to develop herself as a well-rounded artist and support other artists on the island. Dyana pivoted Into the WIRE into a short 15-minute solo work that premiered online and was picked up by additional festivals early into the BC shut down. A new solo work entitled ‘Whirlpool’ is set to premier late March which was a project that Lynda Raino took an interest in during the mentorship and encouraged Dyana to continue to develop it with her support. Dyana has also taken on the role of supporter and developer of local artists on the island with ‘Small Acts of Creativity’ which provides a few hours of pay for dancers to explore a creative project. In her limited spare time, Dyana has also returned to school to complete a Master’s degree at UVIC on gender and movement. She is very grateful for the opportunities provided by the ambassador program and will continue to explore new ways to connect to the community through dance and art.”