Saturday, November 25
2pm – WHO ARE WE? PRESENTING AND REPRESENTING RURAL COMMUNITIES panel at Oxygen Art Centre.  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



NANCY HOLMES has published five collections of poetry, most recently The Flicker Tree: Okanagan Poems. She edited the anthology Open Wide a Wilderness: Canadian Nature Poems, and is a founder of Kelowna’s Woodhaven Eco Culture Centre, an initiative of the Regional District of the Central Okanagan and the University of B.C.


Holmes has organized numerous eco-art projects in the Okanagan. She teaches in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies at UBC Okanagan, where she has served as associate dean of research and graduate studies. In 2015 she won the national Robert Kroetsch Teaching Award for a project whereby her writing students produced and delivered to new homeowners in specific Kelowna neighborhoods a package of locally produced and relevant literature.



FRED WAH, who served as Canada’s 5th Parliamentary Poet Laureate 2011-2013, first brought creative writing education to the West Kootenay. He taught from 1967 to 1989 in Nelson and Castlegar at David Thompson University Centre and Selkirk College, before moving on to the University of Calgary until 2003.


Wah has published more than 20 books of poetry and prose, including the Governor General’s Literary Award-winning Waiting for Saskatchewan, and a prose memoir Diamond Grill, about growing up in Nelson in the 1950s. Recent poetry titles of his include the collections Is a Door, Sentenced to Light, and Scree: The Collected Earlier Poems, 1962-1991. He divides his time between Riondel and Vancouver.




TOM WAYMAN, a former Oxygen Art Centre board member, serves on the organizing committees for New Denver’s Convergence Writers’ Weekend and Nelson’s Elephant Mountain Literary Festival. His many collections of poems include this year’s Helpless Angels. He has been a resident of Winlaw since 1989; his most recent collection of short fiction, The Shadows We Mistake for Love, is entirely set in the Slocan Valley. In 2015 he was named a Vancouver, B.C. Literary Landmark, with a plaque on Commercial Drive commemorating his contribution to the city’s literary heritage.



‘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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