Instructor Bio

Instructor Biographies:

Martina AVIS is a local theatre practitioner. She has a BA in Theatre from the University of Victoria and takes a special interest in community and youth projects. Recently, she worked with Winlaw School to put on a play with a cast of over 80 students. She is extremely well-versed in Shakespeare and has directed numerous youth adaptations of his plays featuring Shakespeare’s original language, fast-paced movement, hilarity and exuberance.

Seathra BELL received her BFA from the Alberta College of Art+Design in 2011 and has recently completed a Masters in Textile and Fashion Design at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. Seathra has received several private commissions and has participated in fine art and design shows in Canada and the UK. The recipient of a major project grant from the Columbia Basin Trust, Seathra is currently conducting research into the traditional textile and dye plants of the First Nations within the Columbia Basin. Seathra divides her time between teaching, costuming for film, and working from her home studio near Nelson B.C.

DELLA is a voice empowerment coach, vocal composer, songwriter, performing artist and a soul-driven teacher with a vision for inspiring all people to sing with confidence. She has performed and taught nationally and internationally for more than a decade. Della has created a process that inspires her students to experience singing as a powerful tool for healing, transformation and connection. Her parents are jazz musicians and met at Berklee College of Music. She grew up in a musical household and the foundation of her musicality is jazz. Della specializes in collaborating, improvising, harmonizing, and vocal composition. She has been writing, recording and touring soul, hip-hop and dance music for over a decade. Della has completed a two-year Performance Diploma at Selkirk College Music Program and since has acquired intensive study of dance, facilitation, and circle singing.

Marya FOLINSBEE has been working in theatre for over two decades. She attended the Victoria School of the Arts where she was a playwriting, acting, physical theatre and directing student. She studied Theatre for Community Development and Activist Theatre as a part of her Peace and Conflict Studies degree at McMaster University. Most recently she studied with David Diamond (Theatre for Living), learning techniques for participatory interactive social justice theatre, and worked at the Nelson Women’s Centre facilitating Theatre of the Oppressed workshops with youth in the Kootenays, exploring the issues in their lives and touring collectively-written, interactive plays. She is currently creating independent theatre & facilitating clown and drama playshops.

Susan Andrews GRACE has published five books of poetry, four of which have been longer form poetry. Philosopher at the Skin Edge of Being (Signature Editions, 2013), her most recent and a long poem, was shortlisted for the 2014 Fred Cogswell Award for Excellence in Poetry.

Jaymie JOHNSON uses natural and recycled materials to create site-specific works involving fibre processing and community skill sharing. She is an interdisciplinary artist and educator invested in social and environmental impact through observation, experimentation and collaboration. Since graduating with a BFA in Visual Arts from Emily Carr University in 2015, she has worked on numerous community-engaged and environmental public art projects as a member of the EartHand Gleaners Society and as Project Assistant with Border Free Bees, as well as on independent projects with organizations including Science World, Vancity, Vancouver School Board AiRS Program, and the Vancouver Biennale BIG IDEAS.

Ian JOHNSTON is an artist based in Nelson, BC, Canada. He studied architecture at Algonquin College and Carleton University in Ottawa and with the University of Toronto in Paris. He also spent five years working at the Bauhaus Academy in post Berlin Wall, Dessau, Germany.
Ian’s primary interest lies in the cycle of goods and investigates, through site-specific installations and sculpture, how things we consume populate our daily lives, define relationships we have with each other and ultimately define social structures. His practice is an extensive reflection on consumerism and the ensuing waste production.
Johnston’s work has been shown nationally and internationally with exhibitions at MOCA Jacksonville, Florida, Robert McLaughlin Art Gallery, Oshawa, Kelowna Art Gallery and upcoming at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, Vancouver.

Rayya LIEBICH is a bilingual poet, writer, and teacher. After twelve years teaching French at Nelson’s Waldorf School, she recommitted to her writing practice and now works as a professional artist. Rayya’s work has appeared in literary journals internationally. Her essay Radical Choices won the Geneva Literary Award in 2015, and her 2015 poetry collection Tell Me Everything won the Golden Grassroots Chapbook Award and was published that same year. Her play Three Minutes took first place in the 2005 Kootenay Literary Competition. She teaches adult writing classes including Liminal Life Writing and Flash Writing at Oxygen Art Centre and Writing Through the Grief at Kalein Hospice. Rayya also teaches creative writing for teens at the Nelson Public Library and Poetry Alive projects funded through ArtStarts, in several West Kootenay schools.

Brian LYE is a filmmaker and artist who recently moved to Nelson from Vancouver.  He enjoys collaboration, analogue film production, bricolage, and jokes.  His research interests include early cinema, special effects, play, human/nature, cognitive development, psychogeography, and the everyday. Brian’s films have screened in festivals, galleries, and television networks such as Sundance Film Festival, Melbourne Film Festival, Canal+, SBS Television Australia, Images Festival Toronto, Vancouver International Film Festival, The Museum of Sydney, Centre of Contemporary Culture Barcelona, and others. He holds an MFA from the University of British Columbia (2018), a BA from the University of Victoria in Film Studies and Japanese Studies, a Diploma of Screen from Sydney Film School (2008), and was a guest student at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (2010).

Catherine MCGRATH – Multi-instrumentalist Catherine McGrath has played and sang in a number of acoustic folk bands over the past twenty-plus years. She was a founding member of Nelson’s Heavy Shtetl, a klezmer and traditional jazz band, Cattle Annie & the Crooked Corral, a western swing group, and Kootenay Kontraband, an old-time dance band.   She is currently performing with Vendredi, a traditional and gypsy jazz trio and Oxygen Orkestar, a Balkan Brass group.  As well as teaching folk band classes Catherine gives individual lessons in piano, accordion, mandolin, guitar, claw-hammer banjo, and ukulele.  Cattle Annie & the Crooked Corral – Miss Molly

Jonathan RAMOS (he/him) is a mixed multimedia artist devoted to self expression and collaboration through the arts. Growing up in the 80’s, Jonathan experienced first-hand the global shift from analog to digital. Combining an education in both traditional and digital arts along with audio/video production, Jonathan brings a unique and fresh perspective on the creative process, and the conversations that follow.

Myra RASMUSSEN graduated from Wesleyan University in 2004, where she was awarded a degree in studio arts with high honors.  She is a multi-disciplinary artist with a focus on community and festival arts.  Since 2009, she has been based in Nelson, British Columbia, where she directs the Polka Dot Dragon Lantern Festival, which showcases giant lantern puppets and community lantern installations.  In addition to her work with festivals, she also has extensive experience with lino and woodblock printmaking where she finds inspiration in the natural world and portraiture.

prOphecy SUN is an interdisciplinary performance artist, movement, video and sound maker, and mother currently living in Nelson on the unceded territories of the Ktunaxa, Syilx and Sinixt peoples. Her practice celebrates both conscious and unconscious moments and the vulnerable spaces of the in-between in which art, performance, and life overlap. Her recent research has focused on ecofeminist perspectives and site-specific engagements along the Columbia Basin region and beyond. She is a Ph.D. Candidate at the School of Interactive Arts + Technology at Simon Fraser University and holds a BFA and MFA from Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Informed by her creative studies in vocal and movement improvisation, her facilitation experience includes work with Dance Troupe Practice, Her Jazz Noise Collective, DTES Women’s Rock Camp, VOXXY Choir, Girls Rock Camp Vancouver (GRCV), Rock Camp Galiano, and Girls Rock Camp Portland. She performs and exhibits regularly in local, national and international settings, festivals, conferences and galleries and has authored several peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and journal publications. She is also the recipient of the Carmichael Canadian Landscape Exhibition Jurors Prize, the Helen Pitt, the Joseph Armand Bombardier CGS Scholarship and the Governor Generals Award.

Amber SANTOS is an artist and art educator based in Nelson, BC and is grateful to live and create on Sinixt Ktunaxa and Silyx traditional and unceded territory. She has been working as an educator with kids, youth, and adults for 16 years. She brings a passion for collaborative and process-based work as well as a love for drawing on walls. Currently, in as a mixed settler (German, French) and indigenous (Saulteaux, Cree, Metís) woman, she is interested in themes of decolonization, healing, connection to landscapes and belonging in her personal painting practice. Check out her illustration, murals and full bio here:

Maggie SHIRLEY‘S work is based on thematic research into the human body, environment and technology, primarily taking the form of performance, installation and socially-engaging projects using AR technology. She graduated with an MFA from UBC Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies in 2013. Prior to doing her Masters, she completed her BFA at the Limerick School of Art and Design in 2008. While she lived in Ireland, she was honoured to act as an Invigilator for the Irish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2007). Following her undergraduate degree, she returned to Canada and worked at the Banff New Media Institute (The Banff Centre). She is currently living in the Kootenay region of BC where she works at the Kootenay Gallery of Art and continues to make art.

Kelly SHPELEY is a self taught, multi-disciplinary surrealist from Nelson, British Columbia, Canada. She has had gallery showings in Canada, the United States, and Norway. She’s been published in Juxtapoz Magazine, Print Work, and Trend Prive. She has also worked in the film industry with a number of directors ( Steven Spielberg, Duncan Jones, and J.J. Abrams, etc…) She also worked with Miss Norway on a body painting photoshoot for Print Work magazine. She’s done artwork for Stan Lee… Excelsior! And was lucky also to be part of Neil Gaiman’s “Calendar of Tales” (January).  She also painted the original poster for the Vancouver International Jazz Festival (Coastal Jazz) 2015. John Cleese and Noam Chomsky, are a couple proud owners of some of her art prints. She is currently working on a stop motion animation, and will also be a part of Tiny Lights Festival, and the Nelson International Mural Festival. Busy times!

Natasha SMITH holds a BA Hons. in Fine Art Printmaking and has been a practicing visual artist for over 20 years. Natasha’s personal and physical environment inspires her most recent semi-abstract works, which combine printmaking, collage, painting and assemblage. Natasha works intuitively, allowing process, landscape and a love of the primitive mark to direct her work. She is a self-defined teaching artist and has taught at KSA (Kootenay Studio Arts at Selkirk College), Oxygen Art Centre, Red Deer College, Metchosin International School of the Arts and Malaspina Printmaking Studio in Vancouver. Natasha has been an artist in residence in Slocan Valley and Nelson schools as part of the ArtStarts in Schools, Artists in the Classroom Program. Natasha works from her studio in beautiful Krestova, BC. and is on the faculty of Oxygen Art Centre.

Deborah THOMPSON is a Canadian visual artist who resides in Nelson, B.C. She graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1984 spending her final year of study in Florence, Italy. She then spent a decade teaching and traveling in wilderness environments from East Africa to the North American Arctic during which she received a B.A. in Experiential Education from Prescott College in 1995. She then put roots down in Missoula, Montana to return to her studio practice completing an MFA in painting at the University of Montana in 1997. She was awarded the Fell-Oskins Scholarship (faculty award) two years in a row for her studio work. She has done residencies at the Vermont Studio Centre and the Banff Centre. She now resides in Nelson, B.C where she maintains a studio and exhibition practice, teaches for the Oxygen Art Centre (she is a founding member of the Centre,) and curators for Touchstones Nelson: Museum of Art and History. In 2008 she went to the Netherlands to research medieval altar pieces in Holland. In 2011, she received a Major Project Grant from the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance for the research and creation of Bird Woman in which she is exploring the ascetic practices of female mystics in the late middle ages. This spring she is going to Avila, Spain to continue her research focusing on the life and work of Saint Teresa of Avila. 

Bessie WAPP is a musician, theatre-maker, educator, and 2015 City of Nelson Cultural Ambassador. Bessie was based in Vancouver for 20+ years where she was a core member of stilt-dance theatre company Mortal Coil and Eastern European music sextet Zeellia. With these groups she performed throughout North America and in Europe, including at New York City’s Lincoln Centre and Zagreb, Crotia’s, DanceWeek Festival.
In 2006 Bessie co-founded Twin Fish Theatre in Nelson, and with the company co-created Hello, I Must Be Going and Loco Phantasmo, two works inspired by stories in her family history.
Local stage roles Bessie has performed include The Witch (Jorinda), Hedwig (and the Angry Inch), Pontius Pilate (Jesus Christ Superstar), Hekate (KHAOS), and Orpheus (& Eurydice).
Bessie regularly performs with acoustic quartet Bessie Wapp & Friends, RnB dance band Bessie & the Back Eddies (2012 Kootenay Music Award), estrogen supergroup Kootenay Divas, Balkan brass band Oxygen Orkestar, and as a guest vocalist with Clinton Swanson & Friends.

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