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2024 Ambassadors

Meet the 2024 Ambassadors!

Woman smiling brightly to the camera. She is wearing a black turban, brown glasses, and a khaki shirt.
Photo by Diamond's Edge Photography.

Harmeet Kaur Virdee (Surrey)

Harmeet Kaur Virdee is a double bassist, composer, music educator, and arts administrator based in Surrey. She holds a diploma in Arts and Entertainment Management from Capilano University, and graduated from the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra School of Music (VSO SoM) Performance Prep Program.

 As a musician and composer, Harmeet gains inspiration from the sounds of nature, as well as visual arts and human emotions. She strives for her music to connect to something bigger than herself, and for it to resonate and touch any listeners. Harmeet believes that music is a powerful form of expression and communication. Music has the ability to express thoughts, emotions, and feelings that words lack and can connect us with others on a deeper level.

 In addition to performing, Harmeet is the founder and organizer of Surrey Jazz Nights and a passionate teacher. She teaches a variety of ages at the VSO SoM and Queen’s Academy of the Arts. Harmeet enjoys working with students of all ages as they explore the wonders of music and hopes to inspire them to find their passion whether that is music or another medium.

Culture Days event: "Everyone is a Composer!” is an interactive composition workshop using visual arts as a medium of composing music. Participants will be guided to create a visual composition (called a graphic score). Then Harmeet and her fellow musicians will interpret, improvise, and perform the visuals as musical pieces.

Pronouns: she/they


Instagram: @harmeetvirdee_music

Mentor: Nikola Tosic

Learn more about Nikola
Black and white portrait of a man with short hair and a full beard. He's wearing acetate aviator glasses.

Nikola Tosic is a trumpet player, composer, and workshop facilitator from Belgrade, Serbia. 

Nikola’s musical activities include improv-based performance (Rory Cowal, NDT), Balkan cross-genre (Super Krystal, SMVA), collaborative composition (Youth Empowerment Program at Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, University of British Columbia, National Arts Festival South Africa) and music production for dance (Korzo, NDT, HCMA, Springboard, PReP - Arts Umbrella). 

Mr. Tosic holds a Masters degree in Music (New Audiences and Innovative Practice) and Bachelor degree in Jazz Trumpet Performance from The Royal Conservatory in The Hague, as well as a Bachelor of Education from the University of British Columbia.

Pronouns: he/him


Man smiling at the camera in front of a bright, colourful abstract painting. He has a full beard and long dark hair pinned back in a ponytail. Wearing a grey t-shirt covered in paint.

Mackenzie Perras (Kelowna) 

Mackenzie Perras is a contemporary painter whose work explores the social history and ecological future of the materials all around us. Fascinated by mythology, history, and our shared material culture, Mackenzie's works are often strewn with ruins and relics meant to be excavated by the viewer. While at first glance strikingly contemporary, much of the work contains historical motifs and patterns, architectural references, or subtle nods to cultures past and present. Mackenzie embraces the dizzying breadth of contemporary materials while exploring what substances have meant to different cultures through space and time. Completing detailed research while living and working alongside different cultural groups in locales like Nepal, India, and Mexico and exhibiting in Italy, UK, Germany, and more, Mackenzie's work espouses a sensitive, curious, and globalized point of view. Their highly sedimentary approach to painting creates seething, complex painted environments imbued with highly codified historical and cultural information. Mackenzie’s world of dynamic textures and heavily encrusted colours pulls viewers into asking ‘what’s this really made of?’ and keeps them wondering about the inner nature and deeper spirit of those materials long after they’ve left the gallery. In 2023, he founded The Creative Exchange, a monthly speaker's series that invites artists, architects, designers and creatives across diverse disciplines to share their work and build community at Kelowna's Rotary Centre for the Arts.

Culture Days event: Join Mackenzie for a day of storytelling, paint making, and creation. Participants will be making paints from natural and historical materials, learning about their cultural history and importance from Indigenous Knowledge Keepers. Together everyone will also create a large-scale, collaborative artwork to celebrate these local, natural resources and the people and cultures that steward them.

Pronouns: he/they


Instagram: @rottingcolours

Facebook: @mackenzieperras

Mentor: To be announced. Stay tuned to learn more about Mackenzie’s mentor!

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Judy Woo (Victoria)

Judy Woo is a multidisciplinary, disabled, and emerging artist. She/they were born and raised on so-called Vancouver Island, the unceded territories of the W̱SÁNEĆ, Songhees, and Esquimalt Nations. Judy is interested in street art culture, exploring their heritage as an artist Indigenous to Hong Kong. Her work spans many mediums including murals, installation work, painting, printmaking, textiles, sculpture, and creative writing. Judy is a founding member of the intergenerational BIPOC arts collective, Meltshot Brownie that reimagines spaces for disabled, BIPOC, and non-binary artists. They are a self-taught artist who believes that both the production and enjoyment of art should be accessible to all.

Culture Days event: Judy will guide participants of various levels of experience in creating multilingual, collage-style cento poetry. This workshop will encourage participants to explore their own ancestry while building connections between individuals. There will be an opportunity for participants to share their work, open-mic style, at the closing of the workshop.

Pronouns: she/they

Instagram: @judy_woo_art, @meltshotbrownie

Mentor: Marie Metaphor Specht

Learn more about Marie
A portrait of woman in front of a black background with long dark hair and short bangs.
Photo by Chris Dingo.

Marie Metaphor Specht is a multidisciplinary artist, poet, and educator living on the unceded territories of the Lək̓ʷəŋən- and SENĆOTEN-speaking peoples. A long-time member of the Canadian spoken word scene, she is currently serving a two-year term as the 6th Poet Laureate of Victoria, British Columbia. In addition to her independent practice, she has collaborated with filmmakers, lighting engineers, dancers, and musicians to create immersive and interactive works. Marie believes in the transformative power of this art form and has had the privilege of coaching and creating space for youth poets for nearly two decades.

 Marie’s poetry has been published in Oratorealis, Untethered Magazine, Chestnut Review, The Hellebore, and Room Magazine, among others. Her debut poetry collection, Soft Shelters is out now with Write Bloody North Publishing (2023).

Pronouns: she/her 


Instagram: @mariemetaphor

A person with black shoulder length hair posing for the camera with a big smile. Their hand is positioned to frame the bottom of their face. They are wearing a long white blouse with a deep v-beck and a pearly bow necklace.
Photo by Mallory Gemmel.

Jesse Medrano-Ramos (Vancouver)

Jesse Medrano-Ramos draws from the Filipino act of Talambuhay, to “tell one's story” to foster solidarity. Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to an immigrant mother who arrived alone at the age of 12, Jesse's work delves deep into the unseen struggles of immigrant and low income Canadians and the exploited realities of immigrant families. Her primary goal is to educate and agitate, firmly believing in art as a revolutionary force.

Utilizing a variety of mediums, Jesse's work spans from digital pieces exploring the internet as immigrant spaces to intricate collages and sculptures dissecting class disparities; however, her true passion lies in creating and curating events that foster therapeutic storytelling and liberative engagement with art.

Jesse is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Visual Arts and Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice at UBC, and has engaged with academic opportunities such as, the PHIL LIND POP series, studying the intersections of pop culture and politics in her first master seminar. She has also attended a global exchange in Berlin surrounding the connection of activism and art.

Among recent achievements, Jesse directed a month-long festival at UBC, called “ARTIVISM: Madness in the Masses,” bringing together communities of activists and artists. This event served as a platform for groups like Hatch Art Gallery to collaborate and focus on the connection between mental illness and class.

Jesse's own life becomes a lens through which she shares the harsh realities of gender and racial oppression. Through her art and activism, Jesse Medrano-Ramos strives to uncover our interconnections to each other and our systems.

Culture Days event: Jesse's event will embrace multimedia scrapbooking and journaling as a tool to help participants ground their cultural histories and their own personal journeys and shared principals. By dismantling hierarchical notions of art and encouraging participants to connect with their own stories through new themes, the event will foster a deeper understanding of self and community, inviting the question, "What are our shared cultural practices and identities grounded in?" What do they mean to you?

Pronouns: she/they/he/any


Instagram: @jssmedra

Mentor: Marissa Largo

Learn more about Marissa
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Dr. Marissa Largo is an Assistant Professor of Creative Technologies in the School of Arts, Media, Performance & Design of York University. Her research and creation focus on the intersections of community engagement, race, gender, and Asian diasporic cultural production. Her forthcoming book, Unsettling Imaginaries: Filipinx Contemporary Artists in Canada examines the work and oral histories of artists who imagine Filipinx subjectivity beyond colonial logics. Dr. Largo has received numerous awards and grants for her research and creative practice. Her 2021 curatorial project “Elusive Desires: Ness Lee & Florence Yee at the Varley Art Gallery of Markham (September 2021 to January 2022) was recognized by the Galeries Ontario/Ontario Galleries (GOG) awards for best exhibition design and installation, and best curatorial writing text between 2000 – 5000 words). Dr. Largo also collaborates with community organizations that connect policy engagement with creative and social practice.

Pronouns: she/her


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Annabelle Bail (Nanaimo)

Annabelle is a multidisciplinary artist living and creating on the unceded traditional territory of the Snuneymuxw Nation. They create mixed media, figurative artwork focused on self acceptance and self actualisation along with the process of healing—illustrating in their own way the emotional, physical, and spiritual changes that manifest within these shared human experiences. 

Using soft pastel colours and symbolism as a visual storyteller, Annabelle represents the gentleness and tenderness of loving one self. In their work, this softness is contrasted with dark, sharp, chaotic, and bold lines to express the complexities and challenges that also come with continuous growth. With a focus on designing a wide range of diverse bodies through an expressionist lens, Annabelle illustrates self discovery as an ongoing beautiful yet tumultuous journey and outlines vulnerability as a strength and power.  

By portraying intentional non-binary themes in their compositions, they’re recognizing the concept of identity and sexuality as something that is constantly changing and evolving, more importantly deeply worthy of celebration, respect, and care. They’re looking to showcase the beauty seen in everyday people living authentically through vibrant paintings and layered drawings, as shown in her first solo exhibition “The Unmentionables,” at the Good Gawd Gallery located in downtown Nanaimo. As a queer artist, they strive to create raw, multidimensional pieces that are relatable and inspire connection. Annabelle honours artistic exploration by playing with acrylic paint, recycled materials, ceramics, and collages mixed with digital media and photography to bring their pieces to life.

Culture Days event: Annabelle's Culture Days event revolves around providing an opportunity for people in their community to come together, interact, and collaborate artistically on a large canvas, using paint and mixed mediums to create a community mural showcasing the beauty and power of diverse voices and perspectives. She believes we can build understanding and empathy across different social and cultural divides through visual storytelling, and Annabelle is looking forward to the community getting to look back on this mural and to see a little bit of everyone in it.

Pronouns: she/they

Instagram: @Fleshandlines

Facebook: @Anaevisualart

Mentor: Russell Morland

Learn more about Russell
A headshot of a man wearing a vintage-style jacket with colourful patches, a baseball cap, and gold jewelry. He has a full grey beard and black square glasses.
Photo by John Fulton.

Russell Morland (AKA LURK) is a Vancouver Island, BC-based artist whose work ranges from detailed, psychedelic paintings and illustrations to digital drawings and collaborative products. Born in the UK, Morland attended Barnsley College of Art and New College Durham, obtaining degrees in graphic design, art and design, and fine art. Since then, he’s remained active as an independent artist and freelance designer.

Morland draws inspiration from the worlds of lowbrow, street art, skateboarding, and board games. Throughout his career, his work has been featured on shoes, underwear, skateboards, card games, for prominent clients including Britney Spears, Avenged Sevenfold, Etnies Shoes, and Mastodon.

Pronouns: he/him


Instagram: @lurklovesyou

X: @lurklovesyo

A woman smiling for a photo in front of a colourful outdoor mural. She has large round wire glasses and mid-length grey hair with full bangs.

Shauna Kay (Kelowna and Armstrong)

Mother to four daughters, a Banker, and a partner to Lee—raising a family, and paying the bills, coexist with art in Shauna’s everyday life.

Shauna will enthusiastically tell you that she “wants to be an artist when she grows up.” In a world where dreams often fade with the realities of day-to-day living, Shauna’s sincerity and passion for art shines.

Shauna’s portfolio includes acrylic and watercolour commissions, plus what she affectionately calls art ‘gigs,’ (doing art gigs even before the term “Gig-Economy” was coined!) such as birthday party Face-Painting, holiday window painting, and mural painting for her local community. 

Community art with a focus on accessibility best describes Shauna’s art practice. She creates physically accessible and publicly visible art such as window paintings and murals. Her work is emotionally accessible, connecting people to the culture of their community through urban sketching. Shauna’s most recent artistic endeavour is the establishment of an Urban Sketching Group in the Okanagan Valley, which is open to any and all would-be creators regardless of abilities, financial means, or education—you don’t need an Arts Degree to create an urban sketch!

Accessible community art gives people the chance to enjoy art—seeing it and creating it—in the course of their normal everyday lives. Urban sketching in particular encourages participation by emphasizing the journey of the creative process rather than focusing on the end result.

Culture Days event: Join an all-day Urban Sketching event that will weave together a simple walking-tour of downtown Kelowna’s Cultural District with helpful instructions for creating on-location sketches and watercolour prints of six culturally significant public art sculptures in Kelowna. Participants may choose to join a single 45 minute sketch-stop, multiple stops, or even the full day of sketching locations. Learn about the stories and historical significance behind specific art installations in Kelowna and gain how-tos for those new to the concept of Urban Sketching.

Pronouns: she/her

Instagram: @smrk_art 

Facebook: @SMRK:Art

Mentor: Linda Lovisa

Learn more about Linda
A woman with short grey hair smiling while posing with three paintbrushes in her hand.

Linda Lovisa paints Alla Prima. This type of painting keeps the colours fresh and vibrant while mixing directly on the canvas. Her techniques include Impressionism, symbolism, and abstraction. Although she works primarily in acrylic, she continues to explore a wide range of media including pastel, watercolour, and mixed media. It is the freedom of expression working with other mediums that energizes her.

Linda’s paintings have appeared in exhibits across Canada and the United States and can be found in private and public collections nationally and internationally. Linda has been presented by The Federation of Canadian Artists, a Gold Award, Third Award and an Award of Excellence.

Linda regularly teaches an online demonstration class which focuses on different techniques as well as individual coaching. Topics vary each week. She has also developed a children’s art program that commences in September till June called “Art on the Yacht,” in West Kelowna. 

Pronouns: she/her


Instagram: @llovisa58

Facebook: @Linda Lovisa