Oxygen Art Centre’s Executive Director Miriam Needoba will be leaving her role at the end of the year after six years of service. Needoba, who is planning to return to school to pursue graduate studies, is confident that the Centre will continue along its dynamic path, as a model for rural artist run centres in British Columbia.
According to Needoba, Oxygen Art Centre is a remarkable interdisciplinary artist-driven organization that, in spite of its limited resources and remote location, has been able to provide the community with exceptional programming and make a significant contribution to the contemporary art scene in British Columbia and beyond. “I have taken my job as custodian of Oxygen Art Centre very seriously,” says Needoba, “I have been moved by the amount of love that the community has shown for this organization and this in turn has motivated me to do my very best for the Centre.”
Under Needoba’s direction, Oxygen’s Artist in Residence Program and its facilitation of ‘Special Projects’ has stayed true to the Centre’s mandate to create regionally relevant, cross-disciplinary work that engages audiences in participatory processes. Needoba believes it is because of the Centre’s ability to facilitate the production of groundbreaking work that Oxygen has been included in the “library of awesome”, a live collection of social innovation initiatives in BC compiled by the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation. Oxygen has been integral in the production of major new works of art including the award winning ‘High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese’, artist Paul Walde’s ‘Requiem for a Glacier’, Sylvia Grace Borda’s ‘Kissing Project’ and most recently, Nicola Harwood’s ‘Summoning (No words)’. The Centre has also been an important stepping-stone for many emerging Kootenay artists, as they pursue careers as professional artists, with Needoba responsible for securing the payment of professionally recognized (CARFAC) fees for exhibitions.
The Centre has occupied its current studio gallery in the back alleyway of 320 Vernon Street for twelve years, with Arts Education serving as the backbone of the operational funding and connection to the community. In this spirit, Needoba doubled the capacity of the Arts Education, which offers courses for all ages as wide ranging as ‘Singing the Blues’ with Bessie Wapp to ‘Drawing on the Walls’ with Amber Santos. In addition, Needoba has successfully applied for the organization to receive multi-year operating funding, which speaks volumes about how key funders have come to view the Centre over the years.
With supporting and celebrating rural artists at the core of the Centre, Needoba has founded several legacy projects over the last six years, including the popular Annual Youth Arts Festival and The Annual Oxygen Art Market. Ongoing programming includes the Presentation Series with literary readings, artist talks and performances throughout the year.
For her final legacy contribution, Needoba will be producing the ‘Upstream Benefits’ project for Oxygen Art Centre. This project has been many years and iterations in the making and has been developed in collaboration with many West Kootenay artists. The project includes a group exhibition co-produced with Touchstones Nelson titled ‘Upstream Benefits: Rural Artist Run Culture in the Kootenays’, that opens Friday, November 17th at Touchstones and a four day long rural art symposium at Oxygen Art Centre, running November 23 – 26, that explores and celebrates the role and the impact that the arts have in rural communities.
“Miriam has the rare combination of grit and vision that has made Oxygen’s programming vital, in Nelson, and to the community of BC and beyond. She’s handing off a vibrant organization that she has tenaciously stewarded over these last six years,” comments Amy Bohigian, Co-Chair of Oxygen Art Centre’s Board.
Needoba is keen to share the credit for Oxygen’s success, “I think it is because of the tremendous dedication and the amount of work that so many people have put in over the years, from the Centre’s founding members, its Board of Directors past and present, its staff and contractors, all the artists and all of the members and volunteers who have been involved over the years, that this organization continues to thrive. None of it of course would be possible without the patronage and support from the community it serves and the Centre’s funders and sponsors. Personally, I feel privileged to have been able to be a part of it.”
As Needoba prepares to move onto the next chapter of her career by the end of this year, Oxygen is actively looking for a new Executive Director. Information about the posting of the Executive Director position can be found on the Centre’s website www.oxygenartcentre.org