FUTURES/forward Mentees

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Meet our outstanding FUTURES/forward 2020 mentees!

We are incredibly proud of the calibre of our FUTURES/forward community-engaged artist mentees!


FUTURES/forward 2020 Mentee: Alyssa Harms-WiebeAlyssa Harms-Wiebe is a Brazilian-Canadian artist-educator dedicated to bridging literary and performing arts with social and environmental sustainability.While pursuing a BFA from Concordia University, she directed productions at local theatres, creating spaces for dialogue about current events. She finished her degree in Finland, and witnessed the vulnerability of the landscape to global warming, confirming her desire to fight for climate justice.After moving to Vancouver and working for three years at the Bolton Academy of Spoken Arts as a speech arts instructor and associate writing programs manager, she decided to address climate issues in her practice more intentionally. As a Writer-in-Residence at the Gullkistan Centre for Creativity in Iceland, she developed poetry on environmental degradation. Upon return, she performed her poetry at the 2019 Vancouver Outsider Art Festival. Selected as a 2019 BC Culture Days Ambassador, she also shared her work through a community-engaged art installation, A Poetic Landscape.

As a current UBC MEd student, focusing on Education for Sustainability, she is learning to intersect artistic practices, non-traditional forms of education, and environmental sustainability. She continues to teach writing and performance workshops—with youth at DAREarts, students and faculty at UBC, and independently.  alyssahw.com


FUTURES/forward 2020 Mentee: Aquil Virani

Awarded as last year’s “Artist For Peace” by the Quebec-based artist collective “Les artistes pour la paix,” Aquil Virani is a visual artist who blurs the line between art and activism, often integrating public participation into his socially-conscious art projects. He exhibited his award-winning “Canada’s Self Portrait” project at the Canadian Museum of Immigration in Halifax and the Stewart Hall Art Gallery in Pointe-Claire, Quebec. He won an award from the Michaelle Jean Foundation to produce his “Postering Peace” anti-islamophobia documentary. His collaborative artwork honouring Québec City Muslims was delivered as a gift to the Centre culturel islamique de Québec. His subsequent commemorative portrait series of the six Muslim men killed was supported by a grant from the Silk Road Institute and a community service grant from TakingITGlobal and the Government of Canada. His creative projects – whether drawing, painting, film or installation – have been exhibited and presented regionally, nationally, and internationally in cities like Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Quebec City, Halifax, Whitehorse, New York, Boston, Punta Cana, Sofia, Lisbon and Copenhagen. Aquil is an Ismaili Muslim and Canadian visual artist based in Tio’ta:ke (“Montreal”) and Tkaronto (“Toronto”). Learn more at aquil.ca.


FUTURES/forward 2020 Mentee: Hannah Gelderman

Hannah Gelderman (she/her) is an artist, educator and arts-based community organizer currently living on the territory of the Lekwungen People, in Victoria, British Columbia. Hannah is a settler of Dutch descent who grew up on the prairies, and calls the region Amiskwaciwâskahikan, also known as Edmonton, Alberta, home. After completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art and Design at the University of Alberta in 2012, Hannah began her work as an arts programmer, where she has worked with a variety of organizations to develop and facilitate art programs and classes for children, youth and adults. Hannah is also a climate justice organizer with extra enthusiasm for arts-based organizing. As a strong believer in the transformative power of art, Hannah is energized by how arts-based and creative practices can bring about positive change at both individual and collective levels. She recently graduated with a Master of Education in Leadership Studies from the University of Victoria, where her research focussed on the role of participatory visual arts in this era of climate crisis. Find Hannah’s work and get in touch at www.hannahgelderman.com.


FUTURES/forward 2020 Mentee: Kseniya Tsoy

I am a cultural producer and community-engaged artist with a focus on creative projects with a social purpose. I passionately advocate for open arts and culture as dynamic vehicles for positive societal change and I love crafting meaningful shared experiences for the public that promote diversity, inclusiveness and collaboration. I specialize in producing cross-cultural and intergenerational projects at the intersection of creativity, social innovation and play.

Born and raised in Uzbekistan, I recently moved to Canada after a decade spent working between Korea and China. www.alfergani.com


FUTURES/forward 2020 Mentee: Lara Aysal

Lara is a climate justice and human rights activist, performance artist, facilitator of community-oriented projects. She has collaborated with a variety of communities in South Africa, South America, Turkey, Italy, Germany and Canada. Her work mainly focuses on child sexual abuse, youth in detention centres, migration, ethnic minority conflict and climate crisis. She is one of the co-founders of AA+A Contemporary Performance Research Project and Ray Performance Collective. Before starting her Ph.D. in Canada, she taught first and second year acting classes at Beykent University and published individual and collaborative ideas on Conference of the Parties (COP20), civil disobedience, theatre in conflict zones and poems on possibilities of hope. She is interested in the role of theatre to address, organize and take action within climate justice context though decolonizing methodologies. She finds joy in experimenting with tools of theatre to disturb everyday life.

Lara received her BA (Honours) from Bilkent University Acting Department and her MA in Advanced Acting from Bahcesehir University. She is currently a Ph.D. student at University of Victoria Department of Theatre. https://laraaysal.com

LAUREL HART — bio coming soon —


FUTURES/forward 2020 Mentee: Naomi Tessler

Naomi Tessler, M.A. is the Founder, Artistic Director and lead facilitator of Branch Out Theatre.  She has been working with communities globally for 16 years, using theatre to inspire positive change! She is a graduate of the Masters of Arts program in Educational Theatre for Colleges and Communities, New York University and currently facilitates and develops Branch Out Theatre workshops, productions and community arts projects with organizations and groups in Ottawa, Toronto and across Canada.  She is passionate about using theatre as a tool for encouraging self-empowerment, conflict resolution, environmental and social justice and well-being.  As a facilitator, Naomi has an extensive background in Theatre of the Oppressed, Playback Theatre, acting, physical theatre, storytelling, directing and playwriting and strives to share these tools with those she works and collaborates with. In addition to being a dynamic workshop facilitator and educator, Naomi also works as an actor, director, playwright, poet, singer, speaker, community arts mentor and Reiki Master. She believes in uniting communities through theatre to build bridges and break through barriers. www.branchouttheatre.com


FUTURES/forward 2020 Mentee: Savanna Harvey

Savanna is a gun-for-hire producer of the broke and beautiful. She is an organizer of secret midnight meetings, an instigator of resistance, and a recruiter of citizens. As a creator-performer, she has toured Canada with her weird little shows about garbage puppets and science ghosts. She is a loner and co-conspirator. She is a killjoy feminist, a recreational mad scientist, and a ruthless proponent of kindness.

She has been nominated for the City of Calgary RBC Emerging Artist Award, the Vancouver Fringe Artistic Risk Award, and the Calgary Fringe Emerging Artist Award. She is a recipient of the University of Alberta New Works Festival Playwright Award. Savanna has hustled for numerous arts organizations/festivals across Alberta and countless scrappy indie artists around the globe. Her apocalyptic comedy about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch opens in Calgary’s Festival of Animated Objects 2021. www.savannaharvey.com


FUTURES/forward Mentee- Tanya Kalmanovitch

Tanya Kalmanovitch is a Canadian violist, ethnomusicologist, and author known for her breadth of inquiry and restless sense of adventure. Trained at the Juilliard School, her pioneering work as a violist in jazz and improvised music has been profiled in Jazz Times, DownBeat, and the New York Times. She is an Associate Professor at Mannes College at The New School in New York, and faculty at the New England Conservatory in Boston. Her uncommonly diverse interests converge in the fields of improvisation, social entrepreneurship, and social action with projects that explore the provocative cultural geography of locations around the world. Her work on the Tar Sands Songbook, a solo performance about coming of age in Alberta’s oil industry, is the recipient of a 2020 MAP Fund award. Her work was recognized by the nomination to the Grist 50 Fixers, a select group of innovators with solutions to climate change. Born in Fort McMurray, Alberta, she now lives in Brooklyn, New York.  www.tarsandssongbook.com  www.tanyakalmanovitch.com


FUTURES/forward 2020 Mentee: Vicki Stroich

Vicki Stroich is a Calgary based dramaturg, facilitator, non-profit leader and community builder. Designing and hosting creative spaces and fostering collaboration are Vicki’s great passions. Vicki is currently as Engagement Director for Alberta Ecotrust, an organization that supports environmental non-profits, where she builds relationships with a range of stakeholders and convenes vital conversations about urgent environmental challenges in Alberta. Previously Stroich worked with Alberta Theatre Projects for over 16 years, serving as the company’s Executive Director for over 4 years. She has dramaturged over 45 new plays with ATP and companies across Canada as well as independent playwrights and devisers. In 2018, she launched the National Playwrights Retreat with the Caravan Farm Theatre in Armstrong, BC. She is a former program director for the Playwrights Colony at The Banff Centre, a Past President of Literary Manager and Dramaturgs of the Americas and a past Treasurer of Professional Association of Canadian Theatres. She has a BFA Drama from The University of Calgary and an Extension Certificate in Social Innovation and Changemaking from Mount Royal University. Vicki received a Betty Mitchell Award for Outstanding Achievement for her work on new plays and is an Avenue Magazine Top 40 Under 40 Alumni.



With gratitude, we wish to acknowledge the generous support of the McConnell Foundation and the City of Vancouver.

McConnell FoundationCity of Vancouver | Cultural Services

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