Upstream Benefits – Rural Art Symposium SCHEDULE

‘Upstream Benefits – Rural Art Symposium’ is a 4-day-long symposium that explores and celebrates the role and impact that the arts have in rural communities and will bring into focus artist-run culture in the Kootenays.  Symposium programming includes multiple panel discussions, artist talks, literary readings, a night of performance art and music and an art exhibition.  All symposium programming is free to attend and everyone is welcome!  (Donations are appreciated.)

Guest speakers include Julie Fowler, Executive Director of Island Mountain Arts in Wells, Carla Stephenson, Director of Tiny Lights Festival in Ymir, Fred Wah, who served as Canada’s 5th Parliamentary Poet Laureate and first brought creative writing education to the West Kootenay, Nancy Holmes, poet and a founder of Kelowna’s Woodhaven Eco Culture Centre, Paul Crawford, curator at Penticton Art Gallery, Sue Donaldson, program officer for the British Columbia Arts Council and artist Sylvia Grace Borda, whose pioneering work with Google Street View has helped put Nelson on the map. Many local artists of multiple disciplines will also be participating in the symposium including Slocan Valley poets Jordan Mounteer and Tom Wayman, and Bessie Wapp and Kiyo Elkuf will be presenting an evening of music.


Symposium venues:

Oxygen Art Centre is located at 320 Vernon Street in Nelson (back alley entrance)

Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History is located at 502 Vernon Street in Nelson


Symposium schedule (click on event names to link to complete listings):

Thursday, November 23, 2017

7pm – THE ARTS AS RURAL REVITALIZER panel at Oxygen Art Centre

Guest speakers: Julie Fowler, Executive Director of Island Mountain Arts, Carla Stephenson, ED Tiny Lights Festival and Laura White, Coordinator/Jewelry Instructor, Kootenay Studio Arts at Selkirk College. 
Moderator: Miriam Needoba, ED Oxygen Art Centre
This panel discussion examines the role of the arts as an economic and social driver from a rural perspective.  Guest speakers Julie Fowler, Carla Stephenson and Laura White will share their extensive experience and knowledge about the pros and cons of producing art in a rural context and the value it brings. (More info:


Friday, November 24


Mentor: Julie Fowler (Registration required and space is limited E:
For this professional development opportunity interested participants need to register by email and submit a question or a topic for discussion relating to producing arts programming and events.  Participants must have some prior experience in production and will be asked to submit a short biography outlining this experience. (More info:


7pm  – KISSING TRAIL PROJECT LAUNCH with artist Sylvia Grace Borda at Oxygen Art Centre

Join us for a presentation about creating a “Kissing Trail” in Nelson. A reception follows.  This event is co-presented by Oxygen Art Centre and Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History with support from the Hamber Foundation. (More info:


8pm – BESSIE WAPP & KIYO ELKUF – a night of music at Oxygen Art Centre

Kootenay-raised musicians Bessie Wapp and Kiyo Elkuf are so “rural” they make the distinction between one growing up in Queens Bay versus the other growing up near Toad Rock a few kilometres down the highway!  Please join us for a night of music and reflections about becoming an artist in the Kootenays. (More info:



Saturday, November 25

11am – RURAL ART AND THE INSTITUTION panel at Oxygen Art Centre

Guest speakers: Julie Fowler, Vice Chair Arts BC, Sue Donaldson, Program Officer BC Arts Council, Mariane Bourcheix-Laporte, President Pacific Association of Artist-Run Centres and Krista Patterson, Executive Director Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance.
Please join us in welcoming these experienced representatives of vital arts organizations, who hold a wealth of knowledge about the current climate for art in British Columbia. (More info:



Guest speakers: Fred Wah, Nancy Holmes and Tom Wayman

Given the concentration of Canadian media and cultural and educational institutions in the urban, rural communities (whether human or biological) appear in the national conversation mainly on the occasion of a disaster. That leaves rural artists, including literary artists, as the people to present an accurate depiction of their milieu.
But any form of artistic representation involves a range of issues, including questions of audience, societal status of the art form, qualifications and authority to speak, and more. Exploring some of their own experiences in (re)presenting communities will be authors and educators Fred Wah and Nancy Holmes. Introduced and moderated by Tom Wayman. (More info:


4pm – ART IN RURAL CLIMES panel at Oxygen Art Centre
Guest speakers: Paul Crawford and Sylvia Grace Borda

Both panelists will give a presentation about some of their fascinating work.  Paul Crawford, curator at the Penticton Art Gallery, will speak about a very timely exhibition he curated with Syrian curator Humam Alsalim called, Behind the Lines: Contemporary Syrian Art.  Sylvia Grace Borda will deliver a presentation that she has created for this symposium called  “Regional Identity and Rural Culture – it’s so much more”.  Overall, rural Canada is in the midst of unprecedented economic, cultural, and ecological change. These dynamics demand both new strategies for engagement and a reappraisal of what outcomes are most meaningful to individuals and communities. (More info:



The writing of the three featured B.C. poets is often deeply rooted in a certain rural landscape. As they present their work, the authors will discuss how their creativity is influenced by the locales in which they live.  (More info:

Presented with financial assistance from The Canada Council for the Arts through The Writers’ Union of Canada.



Sunday, November 26

11am –  ADVICE FOR ARTISTS panel at Oxygen Art Centre

Guest curators : Paul Crawford, Penticton Art Gallery, Maggie Shirley, Kootenay Gallery of Art and Arin Fay, Touchstones Nelson
Moderator – Ian Johnston
This is an excellent opportunity for emerging and mid-career artists to gain useful insights into what curators look for in an exhibition submission, from the perspective of curators representing public galleries in Penticton, Castlegar and Nelson. Presenters will discuss the interests of the organizations they work for, as well as share some of their own particular curatorial interests.  Nelson-based visual artist Ian Johnston will moderate this panel and will draw on his own learning experiences getting his artwork out in the world and into the gallery. (More info:


2pm – MEET THE ARTISTS event at Touchstones Nelson

‘Upstream Benefits: Artist-Run Culture in the Kootenays’ exhibition artists Courtney Andersen, Susan Andrews Grace, Amy Bohigian, Brent Bukowski, Boukje Elzinga, Ian Johnston, Maggie Shirley, Natasha Smith, Deborah Thompson and Rachel Yoder. Presented by Exhibition Curators Arin Fay and Miriam Needoba.
All ten exhibiting artist will join Arin Fay in a ‘MEET THE ARTISTS’ talk as part of the symposium programming at Touchstones. Arin will use her approximately 20 years of knowledge of these artists and their practices to lead an animated discussion about the exhibition, which asked these artists to show a pivotal piece from the artist’s past and a new work in the context of their practice as rural artists.   (More info:



Oxygen Art Centre gratefully acknowledges support for this programming from Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance, Columbia Basin Trust, British Columbia Arts Council and Province of British Columbia, Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History, The Writers’ Union of Canada, Elephant Mountain Literary Festival, Pacific Association of Artist-Run Centres, City of Nelson, Region District of Central Kootenay, Hall Printing, Nelson Star and the Hume Hotel.



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