FUTURES/forward Mentees

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Meet our outstanding FUTURES/forward 2020-21 mentees!

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

COHORT #3, October 2020 – March 2021



FUTURES/forward Mentee, Desiree PattersonDesirée Patterson is a Canadian photographic artist currently living on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, in Vancouver, BC. Her career began during a journey throughout nearly forty countries across four continents. As she documented her extensive travels, she repeatedly observed exhausted environments and impoverished situations. These experiences impacted Patterson deeply, they served as a catalyst inspiring the themes and direction of her art practice.

Patterson’s artistic process consists of digital image capture and meticulous post manipulation of form, shape and orientation, turning disparate layers into unified compositions. From creating industrial landscapes that seamlessly interweave with the human form (Éveil, 2018) and composing mountainous landscapes that embody the idea of melting (Point de Fusion, 2018), to merging endangered glaciers with climate temperature data (Anomaly, 2020) and generating macrocosmic planets that depict the precarious impact of humans on nature (Anthropocene, 2019), her work captivates and challenges viewers.

Patterson is both an artist and activist, ever aware of the harsh realities our earth is undergoing. It is within this ongoing state of dire predictions, global disasters, and bleak planetary projections that she seeks out the beauty and grace of the world in which we live in, waking us from a stilted, siloed and blinded slumber, with ambitions to propel us into collective action. Key thematics in her work include sustainability, environmental issues, social justice and humanity’s dystopic relationship with nature. Patterson has completed public art projects for the City of Richmond and Capture Photography Festival among others. Her work is found in within multiple public and private collections in Canada, the United States, Singapore, Europe and Hong Kong. In 2018, she trained with former Vice President Al Gore in Los Angeles, in the role of civilian leadership as part of the Climate Reality Project and in 2020. Through visual art, organization of public events, and by conducting interactive projects, Desirée feels strongly that she can transcend societal barriers by stimulating curiosity, imagination and create unique opportunities to incite change. desireepatterson.com @desireepatterson_. Read Desirée’s blog post about her mentorship and community visual arts project, Interconnected — a series of workshops for young people with mixed abilities to explore connections with nature and each other.



Evan Medd is a Canadian theatre artist based in Mohkinstsis (Calgary) and in Vancouver on the unceded ancestral territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. His practice primarily focuses on intensive dramaturgical strategizing of process design, community engaged art that intersects with environmental dialogues through puppetry, and collaborative new play development and production with his Calgary company the Major Matt Mason Collective. A BFA graduate of Simon Fraser University’s Performance Creation program, Evan is passionate about how dramaturgical practice can intersect with community from differing perspectives and how interdisciplinary performance can integrate dialogues from unexpected sources. For the past few summers Evan has been working in Prince Edward Island on a piece called The River Clyde Pageant, an outdoor spectacle that celebrates community while drawing attention to the unfortunate reality of PEI’s fading waterways. RCP commits to community engaged practice that integrates rural communities in the creation of a large performance work that explores different art forms such as theatre, dance, visual art, music and puppetry. Evan has also recently been adapting and performing in an online version of Re:Current Theatre’s New Societies, an interactive game where participants form small communities to rebuild society from scratch in a hypothetical scenario where Earth has been destroyed. Read Evan’s blog post about his mentorship and co-creative project, Dreaming Climate Consciousness, a sci-fi fantasy writing workshop series envisioning future worlds based on our (in)actions on climate change.


FUTURES/forward Mentee, Juliana BedoyaWith a background in contemporary sculpture and installation, Juliana Bedoya is a community-engaged environmental visual artist who explores plant technologies to creatively connect with the local landscape and to cultivate reciprocal and interconnected relationships with the land and people. Her work aims to support individuals and community groups to establish their own cultural significance through skill sharing, including all stages of ethically harvesting and processing raw plant materials for art-making and environmental art practice. Using ancestral skills and traditional knowledge that navigates across cultures and mainly working with green waste and invasive plants, her work also aims to support local ecological restoration to foster native ecology. Alongside this practice, for the past ten years, she has worked in the non-profit and public sectors as a curator and arts administrator developing interactive exhibitions, public art installations, and delivering arts programming that activates diverse audiences to support community participation. Read Juliana’s blog post for more about her mentorship and her community-engaged project co-created with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, From Harm to Harmony: the healing power of nature, a visual arts workshop series about climate change.


FUTURES/forward Mentee, Kris AlvarezKris Alvarez is a theatre artist, a Regina monologue, a race card. Kris has the privilege of bridging diverse communities through creation & performance with like-spirited communities at Curtain Razors, Fadadance, Artesian Performing Arts, Heritage Community Association and Common Weal Community Arts where Kris’ 2019 Respond to Racism residency humbly challenged her theatre-making and inspired Golden Potluck – her project centered on giving space to diverse older women’s voices. Kris continues to nurture her practice with Curtain Razors as a performer (Bad Blood, Carmen Angel), and as an Associate Artist with her own work, What Kind of Brown Are You? Inspired by ‘growing up brown’ in 1980s Regina, its recent instalment, Burnt Sienna with Kris Alvarez, a talk show/variety show “with a little more colour” continues for a second series 2019-20. Most recently, Kris travelled to a far away place called Saskatoon to be part of Persephone Theatre’s production, Reasonable Doubt. To find out more about Kris’s community-engaged arts projects using theatre and her mentorship, check out her blog!


FUTURES/forward Mentee, Kristy BenzKristy Benz is a queer performance artist and climate justice activist located in Mohkinstsis (so-called Calgary) on Treaty 7 Territory. After graduating from Bishop’s University with degrees in Liberal Arts, English Literature, and Drama, Kristy let academics take a back seat and pursued her love of clown. She trained at the Manitoulin Conservatory for Creation and Performance (also lovingly known as the Clown Farm) for several summers before moving to Northern California to do the Professional Training Program at Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre. Finally back in her home province, Kristy is engaging with the theatre and climate justice communities. Last Christmas she performed as Tumnus in Alberta Theatre Projects’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Currently she is co-producing a drag adaptation of A Christmas Carol to be performed in a digital run this holiday season. Kristy is a founding member of the social and climate justice group YYC For a Green New Deal. Now more than ever she longs to unite her love of performing arts with her passion for climate justice and is very thankful to the International Centre of Art for Social Change for this opportunity to do so. For more about Kristy’s mentorship and project with the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, Attitude of the Heart (not your average clown workshop for climate activists), read her blog post.


FUTURES/forward Mentee Luca Cara SeccafienLuca Cara Seccafien is an artist, teacher, facilitator, and community builder living on the stolen ancestral territories of the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh people. Luca is a cofounder of WePress Community Arts Space, an inter-generational, collectively operated non-profit organization offering historic and contemporary methods of print- and art-making in a safe and welcoming space, particularly to those marginalized by systems of class, sexuality, gender, race, culture, disability, mental health, addictions, and colonization. Luca has had the honour of mentoring under veteran artists and activists at organizations in Vancouver and beyond including: Powell Street Festival, Gallery Gachet, Heart of the City Festival, Queer Arts Festival & Sum Gallery, and The Works Art & Design Festival.In their art practice, Luca works with diverse media including printmaking, stop-motion, installation, drawing, and illustration. Often autobiographical in nature, their work is influenced by living in a queer, ill, femme body. Luca has exhibited their work across Western Canada and graduated from the University of Alberta in 2013 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, specializing in printmaking. Luca was shortlisted for the Room Magazine Cover Art Contest (2019) and was awarded Honourable Mention in the Biennial International Miniature Print Exhibition (2014). Luca was artist in residence at the Electro Etching Residency Workshop (Spain, 2017), Paul Art Space (Missouri, 2014) and Malaspina Printmakers Society (Vancouver, 2013/14). Luca was recently awarded an Early Career Development Grant from British Columbia Arts Council for a forthcoming mentorship in 2021 with award winning graphic memoirist Nicole J. Georges. To find out more about Luca’s community-engaged arts project, slow print for queers, and their mentorship, check out their blog!


FUTURES/forward Mentee Miranda CurrieMiranda Currie is a northern Indigenous creator living and working in Sombe K’e, more widely known, as Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, among the Dene people. She walks in two worlds, with one foot in her Swampy Cree heritage and the other foot in her Euro-Canadian ancestry. Currie’s goal as musician, filmmaker, author and educator is to create authentic northern indigenous content that is accessible to children and families, in order to change the indigenous narrative in Canada. As Indigenous culture is innately tied to nature, Currie uses her artistic practices to advocate for the protection of Mother Earth and all her sacred connections. Currie’s debut album, Up In the Air, was nominated for aboriginal singer songwriter of the year by the Canadian Folk Music Awards in 2015. Miranda is set to release her second children’s album in the spring of 2021. She has written three children’s books and is part of the National Screen Institute’s IndigiDocs 2020 Cohort.Miranda holds a B.Ed specializing in Outdoor and Experiential Education from Queen’s University. In March 2020, she graduated from the University of Victoria with a Certificate in Indigenous Language Revitalization. Miranda lives close to the land in her cozy shack on the shores of Great Slave Lake with her two sled dogs, Niyanin and Ellesmere. Read Miranda’s blog post about her FUTURES/forward mentorship and participatory arts project, “Sing Together!, an intergenerational Indigenous language revitalization song-writing workshop pilot.


FUTURES/forward Mentee, Renee MichaudRenée Michaud is a versatile self-taught multidisciplinary artist and cultural producer whose community-engaged arts practice is dedicated to social change in the areas of environmental sustainability, gender equality, and mental health and well-being. She is an emerging spoken word and visual artist, as well as a conscious DJ who continues to create substance-free and inclusive spaces for creative expression and deep connection with our inner selves and with others. Renée is an International Coach Federation candidate, Work & Wellness Coach to creatives, and founder of Uneety Coaching and Creative Co. After 10 years of experience in communications and higher education, she finally followed her growing curiosity about the arts and spirituality by leaping into creative entrepreneurship in 2019. She is an Anishinabeg native from North Bay, Ontario area now residing in Chelsea, QC, and working on both sides of the Ottawa River. For more about Renée’s mentorship and co-creative project with the Sierra Club – Prairie Chapter, Nature as Muse, and watch her vlog post.


FUTURES/forward Mentee, Sadie Epstein-FineSadie Epstein-Fine (They/Them) is a second generation queer, Jewish, settler artist and activist. Sadie is a freelance director, playwright, choreographer and creator who works primarily in devised, immersive and physical theatre. They are particularly passionate about creating theatre for young audiences and working with non-professional performers (ex. lawyers). Sadie has had the pleasure of working with theatre companies across Tkaronto including Nightwood Theatre, Theatre Direct, Buddies in Bad Times, Canadian Stage, Theatre Panik and Quote Unquote Collective. Sadie has also spent many years working with young people in creative and non-creative capacities in schools, community groups and summer camps. They have led workshops in playwriting, devised theatre, acting, stage combat and dance. Outside of the performing arts Sadie has facilitated workshops, conference and discussion groups about queer, trans and queerspawn identities. In 2018 Sadie co-edited Spawning Generations: Rants and Reflections on Growing Up with LGBTQ+ Parents, published by Demeter Press, which was named one of the Top 10 books of 2018 by NOW Magazine and was nominated for 2018 LAMBDA and Forward Indies Awards. Read Sadie’s blog post about their mentorship experience and community storytelling project with/for queerspawn.


FUTURES/forward Mentee, Stella LipscombStella is an Inuvialuit visual artist and musician from Inuvik, Northwest Territories and is currently based out of Whitehorse, Yukon. Between life drawings, portraits, photography, textile work and tattooing, she doesn’t hold back, fully immersing herself in every experience she can; diverse, adaptive, and always looking for room to grow. Stella’s acting experience includes featuring in a music video for the band “Old Cabin”. Her photography was recently presented at the Latitude 53 Gallery located in Edmonton, Alberta. As someone who is passionate about relationships, she hopes to immerse herself more fully into her communities in order to foster the kind of creativity and connection that contributes to inclusion and collective wellbeing. Read about Stella’s mentorship and her co-creative e-zine project that fostered connectedness, culture, heritage, and wellbeing for people living in remote communities in her blog post!


FUTURES/forward Mentee, Yasmine HassenYasmine (she/they) is a settler with Afro-Caribbean ancestry on her mother’s side and Ethiopian ancestry on her father’s side who lives as an uninvited guest on traditional territories of the Anishinaabe, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and The Wendat Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. Yasmine stands in solitary with Wet’suwet’en land defenders and water protectors. Yasmine is community organizer rooted in decolonial approaches in bridging the gaps and finding the intersections between diaspora(s), personhood, anti-racism, feminism, Indigenous sovereignty and climate justice. As a mover and maker, they use multi-sensorial mediums as a way to tell stories that centre 2SQTBIPOC experiences and resistance. Beyond that, she loves gardening, mycology and can be often seen giving her wrists a big ol’ dose of ylang essential oil. They hope to eventually live out their days in an eternal Autumn haze, creating disruptive and experimental ethnographies on culture through the embodied practice of reflection, ecologies of care, a love-ethic, and emergence. For more about Yasmine’s mentorship and co-creative project with the Ecology Action Centre, Art for Social Change: Weaving Together Just Livelihoods, read their blog post.

We gratefully acknowledge that Cohort #3 was generously supported by the McConnell Foundation, Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund and Community Foundations of Canada, the BC Arts Council, and Judith Marcuse Projects.


COHORT #2, May – September, 2020


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.

Alyssa was placed as an artist-in-residence at the Sierra Club BC. Read Alyssa’s blog post about her FUTURES/forward mentorship and participatory arts project at the Sierra Club BC.



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.

Aquil was placed as an artist-in-residence at O.U.R. Ecovillage. Read Aquil’s blog post about his FUTURES/forward mentorship and participatory arts project at the O.U.R. Ecovillage.



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.

Hannah was placed as an artist-in-residence with the Alberta Council of Environmental Educators (ACEE). Read Hannah’s blog post about her FUTURES/forward mentorship and participatory arts project at the ACEE.



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.

Kseniya was placed as an artist-in-residence with SPEC.


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.

Lara was placed as an artist-in-residence with Greenpeace.


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.

Laurel was placed as an artist-in-residence with the Prairie Climate Centre, University of Winnipeg.


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 stewardship. 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 performances. 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.

Naomi was placed as an artist-in-residence at the Butterflyway Project, David Suzuki Foundation. Read Naomi’s blog post about her FUTURES/forward mentorship and participatory arts project at the David Suzuki Foundation.



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.

Savanna was placed as an artist-in-residence with Youth Climate Lab.



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

Tanya was placed as an artist-in-residence with Climate Action Network.



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.

We gratefully acknowledge that Cohort #2 was generously supported by the McConnell Foundation, City of Vancouver, the BC Arts Council, and Judith Marcuse Projects.

COHORT #1, Pilot, January – March, 2020


Kellen Jackson (BFA Film Hons 2017, SFU) is a queer filmmaker/soundmaker/educator on stolen, occupied, unceded səl̓ilwətaɁɬ, Skwxwú7mesh, and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm lands. Their work is generated from an endless stream of hungry questions. Recurring themes include ecological intersubjectivity, myth & magic, and the trouble of having and sharing a body. Kellen takes an experimental approach to materials, drawing from experimental analogue film traditions and a childhood of making potions in the mud. In their teaching, they are working toward models of collaboration that embrace vulnerability, passion, and curiosity, as opposed to emphasizing technical proficiency. Kellen’s approach to facilitation comes from a background in theatre, nurtured by liberatory problem-solving pedagogy. They fully embrace clown logic — non-linearity, non-rationality, and taking the art of play very seriously! Kellen works to enable and encourage kids to engage with big questions from exactly where they’re at, emphasizing that there are no “right answers” — only generative thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and sensations that we can all keep learning from and building on together.


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 for Cohort #1 by the McConnell Foundation, Heritage Canada, the BC Arts Council and Judith Marcuse Projects.

Government of Canada McConnell Foundation BC Arts Council LogoJudith Marcuse Projects (JMP) Logo




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