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

I recognize that I still have a lot of expertise to gain when it comes to linking the arts and the environment; most networks that I am currently exposed to have either a focus on artistic disciplines or on environmental sustainability. As a result, I have become eager for opportunities which bridge these practices. Therefore, applying myself to further mentorship through the FUTURES/forward program seems like a natural fit. My hope is that by working directly with an environmental organization, that I will be able to help their pressing environmental concerns reach a larger audience through creative activities and expressions. By accentuating an emotional connection to the organization’s top issues through storytelling workshops and/or pop-up events which engage the community through spoken stories or literary installations, my desire is to instigate spaces for reflection, which can propel audiences to action.
Something that I find is lacking in the 21st Century is opportunities for intergenerational connections to be made. Senior artists have stories and wisdom unknown to me, which necessitate being shared, especially in the context of environmental stewardship. Within the FUTURES/forward mentorship pairing, my hope is that my work in collaboration with an environmental organization would be challenged and bettered through the support of an experienced mentor who can speak to my blindspots.


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.

As a self-taught artist, I am often lacking proper guidance to improve in my vocation. While attending McGill University as an undergraduate student, I connected with like-minded academic peers in a variety of diverse fields, but I know relatively few established artists beyond my age group or experience cohort. I maintain a student mindset and try to learn from other artists and other activists, but I struggle to find mentors who value both art and substantive social change strategies. This program opens the door to a non-profit that is willing to collaborate with artists to strengthen their work. For almost a decade, I have been pushing my art projects towards more activist ends; this program aligns perfectly.


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.

I would benefit from the mentorship of the seasoned community-engaged artist and from the collaborative process between the mentor, myself and the organization. In my experience, the work and projects that I participate in are consistently made stronger from the input of others, and through collective processes. I would also benefit from meeting the other participants in the cohort, as that is an opportunity to build networks, share resources, and learn from others doing similar work. The financial support is also beneficial because it allows me to more fully dedicate my time and energy to community-engaged art initiatives without needing to be employed in other capacities. Financial support also validates my skills and contributions as a professional artist in a world that often undervalues these contributions. Overall participating in FUTURES/forward offers me a chance to both share and improve my skills in supporting individuals and communities to creatively navigate the complexities of climate change and work towards climate justice.


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

I absolutely love the idea of being an artist-in-residence in a host environmental organization. For me personally, it is a great way to deepen my “artivism” practice and create art about what matters to me, as well as a unique chance to explore community-engaged arts in a new setting, in collaboration with new stakeholders and facing new challenges. But most importantly, socially, I see this program as a powerful way to break the silos and join forces between disciplines, to spread beautiful and strong environmental messages, bring arts to an organizational setting, and contribute to further development of art for social change as a modern art practice.

For me as a recent newcomer, the mentorship aspect of this program is invaluable to my professional integration in Canada. It would give me an incredible opportunity to deepen my understanding of making art and culture in Canada, meaningfully engage with fellow art and culture makers, expand my connections to local professional networks and reach out to new audiences.


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

Art plays a crucial role in understanding modes of thinking around climate crisis and encourages us to imagine beyond the given present. My goal as an artist is to build community-arts engagements that might facilitate spaces for critical thinking, action and social transformation. I am hoping to build collaborations with knowledge holders, NGOs, artists and communities for a lecture/workshop series that focuses on climate crisis. These lecture/workshop series will be centred around bringing Indigenous and Western knowledge systems together through storytelling, with the guiding principles of Etuaptmumk/Two-Eyed Seeing (Bartlett & Marshall, 2018) approach. I believe that FUTURES/ forward program will guide the path for building meaningful collaborations and support me in connecting with knowledge holders, NGO’s and communities to co-create dialogue on climate crisis.

FUTURES/forward 2020 Mentee: Lara Aysal

Laurel Hart is a practicing artist, teacher, community organizer, activist, and researcher. Over the last 10-15 years, she has exhibited in (and curated) more than 25 exhibitions in Canada and abroad. Laurel’s works often involve direct engagement and collaboration with local communities. Core themes of her studio practice include community building, social justice, and art for social change.

She is drawn to art’s ability to shine a light into the lives, issues, and experiences of local people, while simultaneously drawing community into a moment of collective lived experience, and directly impacting an issue at hand. Over the last 12 years, her work has grown in complexity, involving cross-disciplinary collaborations in fields like media studies, public history, gender studies, and mobility studies. Her studio practice overlaps media boundaries, incorporating a blend of performance, traditional media and technologies in collaborative, community-based artworks, or using collective art projects as a tool in activist communities.

Laurel also manages a chapter of Babies for Climate Action – Vancouver (Westside), a group which is collaboratively run by a core team of mothers and has over 180 members.

She holds a PhD and MA in Art Education from Concordia U., a BA and Bachelor of Education from UBC, and completed a SSHRC post doctoral fellowship with SFU & McGill University. She was also selected as a 2020 mentee with Vancouver chapter of Women4Climate.

After completing my graduate studies and post-doctorate, I was looking for opportunities to continue my work in the arts and climate action, while also looking for connections with industry partners. As an artist-mother, recently returned to my home city of Vancouver, I struggled to make connections and find opportunities to support my work. When my little one was born, I realized clearly that my child’s health, wellness, and future, were intimately linked to the future of the earth. With a group of mothers, I helped build the Vancouver chapter of Babies for Climate Action (now 200 members, each of whom represents a larger family). Through this group, I have successfully engaged and connected with young families in Vancouver. Still, I wanted to be able to bring my skillsets as a participatory artist together with those of being a community organizer fighting climate change. To do that, I need time, funding, and support from someone who was successful navigating the critical intersection of community building, activism, and collaborating with partner organizations.


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

This opportunity would provide a platform to return to my initial entry point into community arts
practice: using the arts to raise awareness about environmental justice and motivate environmental
This mentorship program would be an incredible chance to plant new seeds of environmental stewardship at a time when our planet truly needs the world to take action. I would be thrilled to have a
platform to support an environmental organization to creatively address the issues they’re tackling
through the development and facilitation of engaging popular theatre workshops and original
It has been quite a while since I have been mentored and, to guide my community arts practice to its next stage, it would be an honour to be mentored by a senior community arts practitioner. I wish to be challenged, motivated to explore new possibilities, and expand the vision of how I lead, facilitate and co-create in this field.


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

I believe I would benefit immensely from the mentorship of the FUTURES/forward program because I have a pre-existing portfolio as a community/socially-engaged artist but am just now formally starting my journey in the field of ASC. Having a mentor to deepen my artistic and climate justice/community action practices will ensure I am following the field’s best practices/processes/policies to do this work in interesting and responsible ways. Being paired with [an environmental organization] is highly relevant to the work I am currently undertaking. It will be an excellent research and outreach opportunity.


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.

There is growing momentum and desire from both sectors [arts and environment] to collaborate, especially in Alberta where intense polarization about climate change requires innovative and adaptive tools to foster dialogue and engage citizens in climate action. I have an established career as an artist and community builder. I also have a long-standing passion for the environment. What I am exploring now is how to actively and meaningfully bring these two passions together. The FUTURES/forward mentorship comes at a pivotal time in my evolution as a community-engaged artist in this emergent collaborative space between artists and environmental organizations. An experienced mentor would challenge me to focus my goals in order to leverage my position, energy, and voice for maximum impact. I would value guidance from an invested mentor as I evaluate the range of opportunities to work towards my goals and develop ideas to prototype within interested organizations.



Teresa Vander Meer-Chassé (b. 1992) is a proud member of the White River First Nation of Beaver Creek, Yukon, Canada and Alaska. Teresa is a full-time visual artist and contract curator. Teresa is a self-taught artist however her Grandma Marilyn, an Upper Tanana Elder and residential school Survivor, encouraged her to start by providing her with supplies, examples, and templates. Knowing the importance of cultural revitalization Teresa’s Grandmother encouraged her to bead and sew at the age of eight.

Teresa defines herself as an Upper Tanana contemporary visual artist. She primarily works with beads, hides, bones, quills, and antlers. She has an ongoing series called Indigenizing Colonial Garbage where she scavenges garbage and beads the found material (including, hubcaps, traffic pylon, shoes, blown tire remnants). She also creates sculptural works, jewelry, and has most recently been creating fashion items.

In 2016, Teresa received a prestigious YVR Youth Scholarship award. The artwork created with the scholarship has been accepted into the Yukon Permanent Art Collection in 2018. Teresa received another YVR Youth Scholarship and the artwork has recently been completed. Throughout 2018, Teresa collaborated with artist Nicole Bauberger in creating Raven-inspired sculptural works from tire remnants. The two received a Canada Council for the Arts Creating, Knowing, and Sharing grant.

Today, Teresa has completed a comprehensive language project for her First Nation that documented traditional ways of harvesting large game, hide tanning techniques, and creating traditional clothing. She most recently curated Emerging North at the Yukon Arts Centre’s Main Gallery which is now on display. Teresa also had a solo show set for April 2020 but had to adapt to an ever-changing world and decided to upload images of the exhibition to her website instead. www.teresavandermeerchasse@wordpress.com www.facebook.com/teresasbeadings


Wen Wen (Cherry) Lu is a multimedia artist interested in installation, sculpture, and painting; with dabblings in film, animation, book art, print, digital, and community engaged projects. She thinks of her practice as a conceptual dance where each movement requires its own set of research and material choice. Wen Wen often gravitates towards exploring the hidden, the small, and the forgotten. Or in the metaphor of dance, she finds the possibility between one movement to another more intriguing than the arrival of a finale.Her work has been shown in Richmond Nature Park, WINDOW Gallery, International Arts Gallery, Centre A, Concourse Art Gallery, UBC Student Nest, Jericho Beach, New Westminster Museum and Gallery, Access Gallery, and Burnaby Art Gallery. She is a graduate of Emily Carr University with a bachelor’s in visual arts. Wen Wen is also an inspiring visual arts educator to a few vibrant communities; they and those around her know her as Cherry.

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

McConnell FoundationCity of Vancouver | Cultural Services

FUTURES/forward Mentors



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