L-R: Artists Susan Andrews Grace, Boukje Elzinga, Rachel Yoder, Amy Bohigian, and Ian Johnston, who are among the artists whose work will be exhibited Nov. 17 to Feb. 11, at Touchstones. Photo: Jake Sherman

New exhibit at Touchstones celebrates the evolution of local artists

Upstream Benefits explores the past decade of art and culture in Nelson

By Jake Sherman

A new collaborative exhibit three years in the making opens at Touchstones on Friday.

Upstream Benefits — which was co-curated by Touchstones and the Oxygen Art Centre — seeks to understand why so many artists have fostered careers here, and looks at how the Kootenays have influenced the careers of the artists who live and work in the greater Nelson area.

The idea, according to co-curators Arin Fay and Miriam Needoba, is to provide a survey of some of the work that local artists have done over the last decade, and celebrate the benefits of creating art and community in rural locales.

“The artists have very little in common,” said Fay, a visual artist and Touchstones curator. “We really wanted the works to be ones they could tie to their time here — trying to frame how the Kootenays have influenced their artwork and careers.”

The interdisciplinary exhibit features the work of Courtney Andersen, Susan Andrews Grace, Amy Bohigian, Brent Bukowski, Boukje Elzinga, Ian Johnston, Maggie Shirley, Natasha Smith, Deborah Thompson, and Rachel Yoder, who come from diverse backgrounds, and will be showing two pieces each: one from when they first arrived in the Kootenays, and a more recent piece.

The contrast, the curators hope, will show how the experience of rural life in the Kootenays has influenced their work.

As much as the exhibit is about the effect that rural life has had on the creative process, it is also a celebration of the community of artists that have been involved with the Oxygen Art Centre over the last 10 years. Each of the artists featured in the new exhibit, which runs until February 11, have been members of the Oxygen Art Centre board of directors.

“It started out as Oxygen anniversary show,” said Needoba, filmmaker and executive director of the Oxygen Art Centre. “It was many years and iterations in the making … and is the culmination of years of collaborative efforts, writing grants and coming up with ideas.”

For artist Rachel Yoder, who never studied art at the university level, Oxygen provided an outlet for exploring the world of being an artist. The exhibit therefore also looks at how the Oxygen Art Centre has impacted the art practices of the artists who will be exhibited.

“The exhibit looks at how the artist engages with the social, which we are all extremely impacted by,” said artist Boujke Elzinga. “We all influence each other, and the artist has an impact on the community as well.”

Co-curators Fay and Needoba want to make clear that these artists are by no means representative of all the work being done here, but have all made important contributions to development of the artistic community that has made Nelson the arts and culture capital of interior British Columbia.

In addition to the exhibit, Touchstones and the Oxygen Art Centre will be hosting a symposium, slated to run from November 23 to 26.

The symposium offers workshops that will focus on learning from other rural communities who have fostered creative communities, host a number of rural artists and speakers who will participate in panel discussions, and look at how the arts can be an economic driver in rural communities.

Highlights include a talk from Julie Fowler, the director of ArtsWells, (an arts and culture festival that draws 2,500 annually to the tiny town of Wells, B.C.) and a panel discussion that will feature Nancy Holmes, a professor in the faculty of creative and critical studies at UBC Okanagan, and local poet Fred Wah.

Upstream Benefits opens with a reception on Friday at 7 p.m.

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Co-curators Arin Fay and Miriam Needoba oversee the installation of the artwork to be presented in Upstream Benefits. Photo: Jake Sherman

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