Upstream Benefits

Upstream Benefits involves ten artists: Courtney Andersen, Susan Andrews Grace, Amy Bohigian, Brent Bukowski, Boukje Elzinga, Ian Johnston, Maggie Shirley, Natasha Smith, Deborah Thompson and Rachel Yoder, a sampling of the impressive caliber of artists that call the Kootenays home. The artists involved in this exhibition example how artist run culture in the Kootenays has…

2017 Nov 18 – 2018 Feb 11

Upstream Benefits: Artist-Run Culture in the Kootenays

Curated by Arin Fay & Miriam Needoba

Two exciting and interconnected events happing in Nelson, BC during the Fall/Winter of 2017: an art exhibition ‘Upstream Benefits: Artist Run Culture in the Kootenays’, a 10 artist group show curated by Arin Fay and Miriam Needoba and co-produced by Touchstones and Oxygen Art Centre, and ‘Upstream Benefits – Rural Art Symposium’, sponsored by Oxygen Art Centre. These events celebrate the past decade of art and culture in the Kootenays. The exhibition at Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History runs from November 17th – February 11th and the Symposium runs from Nov 23-26 at both Oxygen and Touchstones locations. 

The ‘Upstream Benefits’ Exhibition involves ten artists: Courtney Andersen, Susan Andrews Grace, Amy Bohigian, Brent Bukowski, Boukje Elzinga, Ian Johnston, Maggie Shirley, Natasha Smith, Deborah Thompson and Rachel Yoder, a sampling of the impressive caliber of artists that call the Kootenays home. The artists involved in this exhibition example how artist run culture in the Kootenays has been supported and developed over the last decade.  The place in which we live is an important part of the creative process; artists are informed and fostered by place, where they live and where the work was conceived and created. Each artist will display an early instrumental piece – from their tenure here in the Kootenays, in tandem with a new work which will illustrate the evolution of their respective creation/styles/approach. This exhibition is about artist run culture, about the creative process and the importance of place. 

 ‘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. 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 British Columbia Arts Council and artist Sylvia Grace Borda, who’s 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 poet, Jordan Mounteer and Bessie Wapp will be presenting an evening of music and performance art with a group of West Kootenay artists. 

Courtney Anderson

Courtney Andersen is a West Kootenay artist based midway between Ymir and Salmo; in the middle of nowhere. He has been practicing art since he was knee high to a grasshopper. Courtney studied at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and holds a Master’s degree. He taught at Kootenay School of Art for twenty-three years in the areas of mixed media and design. 

Susan Andrews Grace

usan Andrews Grace’s visual art conceptually echoes and honours textile tradition as well as engaging historical and theoretical concerns about human, and sometimes specifically, feminine existence. She has exhibited her works in public galleries over the last thirty years, mostly in Canada. Her bibliography includes Craft Perception and Practice: A Canadian Discourse, Volumes 1 & 2. She’s received Saskatchewan Arts Board, Canada Council, BC Arts Council, and Columbia Basin Trust (CKCA Major Project Award) grants in visual art. Her most recent solo exhibitions were Underwritten at gallery 2, Grand Forks, BC (Aug 22- Nov 15, 2015) and Red Thread, Read Through at Langham Gallery in Kaslo, BC (Oct 6 – Nov 22, 2015). Her most recent group exhibition was 150 Creative Acts at the Kootenay Gallery of Art, 2017.  Susan Andrews Grace is also the author of five books of poetry; the most recent, Philosopher at the Skin Edge of Being (Signature Editions, 2013) was shortlisted for the Fred Cogswell Award for Excellence in Poetry, 2014. She holds an MFA Creative Writing (Poetry) and BA (Philosophy)

Ian Johnson

Ian Johnston is an artist based in Nelson, BC. Born in Moose Factory, Ontario and raised in Ottawa, Johnston studied architecture at Algonquin College, and Carleton University in Ottawa and with the University of Toronto at Paris. Prior to opening his Nelson studio in 1996 he spent five years working at the Bauhaus Academy in post Berlin Wall East Germany. At the Bauhaus, together with two architects, he developed and facilitated a series of workshops around themes of urban renewal and public intervention in a tumultuous time of cultural transformation. Johnston’s art practice is a self-described ‘journey’ of bodies of work that began with a focus on consumerism and the physical waste stream. His current work Fine Line has switched attention from consumption culture to the obsessive-compulsive behavior that epitomizes it. Johnston has participated in residencies and shown his work in public galleries and museums in Canada, Asia, Europe and the United States. 

Boukje Elzinga

Boukje Elzinga makes art in a variety of media, mainly oil painting, drawing and sculpting at her studio in Hills, B.C. She was born in the Netherlands, grew up on a farm in southern Ontario, studied biological sciences at the University of Guelph completing a BSc and worked as a nurse in British Columbia.  She obtained a BFA in studio arts at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design and has taught fine arts and art history in the region for many years.  

Deb Thomsom

Deborah Thompson is a visual artist, art instructor and independent curator. She was born in Toronto, Ontario. She attended the Ontario College of Art (now OCADU) from 1980-84 of which her final year was spent studying in Florence, Italy. After art college, she then spent over a decade teaching environmental leadership in wilderness areas from East Africa to the North American arctic during which she received a B.A. in Experiential Education from Prescott College. She attended the University of Montana to pursue an MFA in painting, upon graduating she taught as an Adjunct Faculty in the painting program.  In 1999 she moved back to Canada to teach at the Kootenay School of the Arts in Nelson, BC. She currently resides in Nelson, BC where she teaches and works in the residency and exhibition program at the Oxygen Art Center of which she is a founding member. Deborah worked as a curator for Touchstones Nelson: Museum of Art and History from 2009-2012, and has been awarded both for her curatorial work and studio practice. She is currently working on a new body of work with the assistance of a major project grant from the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance. She has done a number of residencies including the Vermont Studio Centre and the Banff Centre. 

Natasha Smith

atasha Smith holds a BA Hons. in Fine Art Printmaking and has been a practicing visual artist for 20 years. Natasha’s personal and physical environment inspire her most recent work, which combine printmaking, collage and painting.  Natasha is a self-defined teaching artist and has taught at the Kootenay School of the Arts, Oxygen Art Centre (where she was a founding member) Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts and Summer Series in Red Deer. Natasha has been an artist in residence in Slocan Valley and Nelson area schools as part of the Artstarts, Artists in the Classroom Program. Natasha exhibits regularly and works from her studio in Krestova, B.C. 

Rachel Yoder

Rachel Yoder began painting intensely coloured canvases in the early 2000’s.  She is largely self-taught as an artist.  Working as a colour printer in a custom photographic lab for 5 years and designing/planning, and building custom houses for 25 years, made constructing paintings from blocks, lines, and grids of colour, a natural progression.   

Restricted, repeating structure is a major component of her work.  She combines the strength of grids and blocks and line with depth of colour to form canvases that are concerned with creating space and movement.  She is fascinated by the way the brain organizes visual information into figure and ground and uses that in making non-representational paintings.  How to build visual structure in a canvas, what elements can be used to make a painting, and how they become a unity, are some of her concerns.  She works at exploring the ways in which colour differences, contrast, tone and hue affect response and interpretation.   

Yoder lives and maintains a studio in a mountain valley near Nelson, BC. 

Brent Bukowski

Brent Bukowski is an artist who works primarily with reclaimed materials. He reanimates discards into compositions that explore environmental and historical themes. His work achieves a high level of detail and has been applied to a variety of sculptural forms: series work, installation, architectural, set design and public art. Born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan (1968), he has lived on an acreage in the mountains of the West Kootenays since 1992— where he and his partner, artist and curator Arin Fay, have designed and constructed their house and gardens and have raised two children. 

Amy Bohigian

Amy Bohigian is a new media artist, filmmaker and educator. Her new media work includes Roundtable, Wide Shot/Close Up and Arc: A Story Between Two Frames, which have been exhibited at Oxygen Art Centre, Touchstones Nelson, and Kootenay Gallery of Art.  

Amy owns and operates Watershed Productions Inc., where she directs and produces video based projects across sectors and platforms to create social impact. As an independent filmmaker, Amy Bohigian has directed and produced award-winning films that include Love It and Leave It (2008) Conceiving Family (2011) and Dreamers and Dissidents (2015) commissioned by BC’s public broadcaster, Knowledge Network. She founded the Summer Film Camp for Youth in 2007 and has instructed hundreds of youth in all aspects of filmmaking. She has been a guest lecturer and faculty member with the Digital Arts and New Media Program at Selkirk College in Nelson, BC since 2012.  

Amy was named Nelson BC’s cultural ambassador (2014) in the category of film/video production. She is currently the Co-chair of the Board at Oxygen Art Centre in Nelson BC. She is married Jane Byers and they have two children, Franny and Theo. 

Maggie Shirley

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. She graduated with an MFA from UBC Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies in 2013.   Prior to doing her Masters, she did 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). After her undergraduate degree, Shirley 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 is Curator at the Kootenay Gallery of Art and continues to make art. 

See Also

Upstream Benefits Artist Statements

Miriam Needoba Curatorial Essay

Arin Fay Curatorial Essay

The Spaces Between


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