Upstream Benefits Symposium – THE ARTS AS RURAL REVITALIZER

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.


Julie Fowler is the Executive & Artistic Director of the Island Mountain Arts Society in Wells, BC. Passionate about finding ways to celebrate and promote artists, she has helped to create two award-winning festivals, both featuring a range of artistic mediums from performance to visual arts: the Art Matters Festival at Concordia University in Montreal and the ArtsWells Festival Of All Things Art, which began in 2004 and is now the largest arts event in the Cariboo with over 2500 people converging in Wells on the August Long Weekend each year. Julie graduated with an Interdisciplinary MFA from the University of British Columbia, Okanagan in 2013 and her thesis project, a creative non-fiction novel called the Grande Dames of the Cariboo, was published by Caitlin Press that same year. Julie is proud to sit on the board of directors for ArtsBC and Folk Music Canada.


Island Mountain Arts (IMA)

Over the last forty years in the tiny town of Wells, BC, Island Mountain Arts (IMA) has been at the artistic frontier inspiring and empowering generations of Canadian artists. Some might say our work is the real gold at the core of the Cariboo story as we’ve been growing a grassroots arts economy and creative community for decades. Thousands of summer festival-goers hit the road each year to our ArtsWells Festival of All Things Art, which sees our area swell from 300 to over 3,000 people. Our celebrated School of the Arts and new Artist-in-Residence program offer immersive experiences like no other and have nurtured the talents of hundreds of Canadian artists who’ve had their start here at Island Mountain Arts. Flagship programs include the Toni Onley Artists’ Project for Professional and Emerging Artists and the International Harp School, as well as, the Northern Exposure Conference for rural arts organizers.


 Carla Stephenson is the founder and executive director of the Tiny Lights Festival in Ymir, BC and is a board member of Island Mountain Arts.  Her passion is community economic development through arts, especially in rural communities. It is her belief that incredible innovations are being developed in rural places and that the lessons and communities that we are creating in these small places hold lessons for larger urban centres.


Tiny Lights Festival

Our festival is unlike any other, with 7 historic venues running for three days with over 100 performances. Tiny Lights allows you to see top notch performers in small intimate venues. This is where magic happens for performers and audiences. Our Artistic Director has described it as a “…whole town house concert.” and a …”choose your own adventure festival”

Beyond musical performance and also included in the price of your ticket are many hands-on workshops for adults and children, spoken word, theatre and film. There is something for everyone all weekend long.


Laura White was born and raised in North Vancouver.  Laura moved to the West Kootenay in 1993 after receiving a BFA degree from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University.

For over twenty years, Laura has been an instructor in the Jewelry studio at Kootenay School of the Arts (now Kootenay Studio Arts at Selkirk College). During that time, she also taught a Jewelry program for Nunavut Arctic College, flying into remote Arctic communities. From 2004 to 2012, Laura was an administrator at KSA at Selkirk College, holding the positions of Academic Director, Executive Director, and School Chair, while continuing to teach in the Jewelry studio.

In addition to her work as an educator and arts administrator, Laura has been Co-director at the Kootenay Gallery of Art, History and Science; her responsibilities included curating and mounting exhibitions, applying for grants and other financial assistance, and overseeing staff and daily operations.

Laura is currently Treasurer of the Slocan Valley Community Arts Council and an executive Board member of the West Kootenay Regional Arts Council; she has also served as a Board member of the Craft Council of BC, and an executive Board member of the Assembly of BC Arts Councils (now ArtsBC).


Selkirk College

The Digital Media, Contemporary Music and Studio Arts programs support individualism in a challenging learning environment that integrates history, critical thinking, science, technology, business in hands-on studio settings.

Classes are held in beautiful Nelson BC where arts and culture provide a backdrop to a unique blend of urban sophistication and mountain charm with an unhurried pace and friendly atmosphere.



Miriam Needoba is a filmmaker and new media artist and Executive Director of the Oxygen Art Centre in Nelson, BC. Miriam graduated from Emily Carr University with a BFA in film/video in 2001 and her short films, documentaries and net art works have been screened and exhibited nationally and internationally. She is a member of the International Cinematographer’s Guild (I.A.T.S.E. 669) and director of the independent media production company Small Town Films Inc.

Needoba has been the director and program manager at Oxygen Art Centre since 2012. 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. For her final legacy contribution, as she will be leaving her post in December, Needoba is producing the ‘Upstream Benefits’ project for Oxygen Art Centre.



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.)

For more information and to see the symposium schedule link here

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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