After spending a few years away from the City of Kamloops, Tanya Nielsen is back in the city as the Kamloops Arts Council’s new executive director.
Nielsen has had a broad journey on her way to the KAC, from attending TRU for her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree to travelling to Newfoundland to complete her Masters degree.
“I actually went to school here at TRU and I did the BFA stream,” Nielsen said. “I was the second person to graduate with the gallery studies focus and I fell in love with the community. Afterwards I went to Memorial University in Newfoundland to do my Masters there.”
After her Masters degree, Nielsen worked for a variety of non-profit organizations, working in events and conference management. Later on, she worked for the Quesnel Art Gallery.
“I went to Quesnel Art Gallery and I was there for three years, part-time, kind of doing a whole bunch of stuff for them.” Nielsen said. “I always wanted to come back to Kamloops. The arts community here is just really connected. Other people are always reaching out to me or connecting to me or wanting to meet me and they’re from other organizations that I probably wouldn’t have met in a place like Vancouver.”
Nielsen is an artist herself, with her main art forms being painting and photography. Nielsen has also worked in installation and performance as well.
Nielsen said what she loves about the arts is “the possibility. I think that the arts are great because it’s just this incredibly beautiful way to form a message to someone.”
She added that “with art you have this beautiful, visual or melodic or colourful way of expressing an opinion or something that needs to be shared and if you do it right, it’s a huge impact.”
Nielsen also believes that the arts bring us together and helps to foster a sense of community.
“I think the arts are important because they bring us all together, more than anything else. We go to movies, we listen to music, you’ll see all these, or you used to before COVID, huge crowds of people that would gather together to experience something and I think that is one thing that has held communities together throughout COVID; this artistic experience.”
Throughout her years working in the arts, Nielsen is most proud of her work at the end of her undergraduate degree, and looking into how failure can foster success, which led to her Masters degree pursuit.
“I put together an exhibition and it kind of led to my Masters thesis,” Nielsen said. “I had invited the graduating students to submit one work that they thought failed, and I interviewed them on the process and asked them what they thought of it now. Every single one of them was laughing throughout the interview as they were talking about their process. They weren’t traumatized at all but it allowed them to look at these things in a different way. When people saw these works, they didn’t really see the failure in them. They saw them as something that could potentially be celebrated, that could potentially work.” Two weeks following the exhibition was the graduating exhibition that showed how far the students had come since their ‘failings.’
Above all, Nielsen is glad to be in the Kamloops community again and to be working at the Kamloops Arts Council with a variety of kind and creative people.
“I like the people that I work with here,” Nielsen said. “They’re a lot of fun, they’re very dedicated and … this is probably the best group you could ask for. They’re all very excited and happy to be here and ready to work.”