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This is a great chance to see Kootenay Studio Arts students in action

Selkirk College Kootenay Studio Arts (KSA) student Kaeli Benoit (top photo) stands by the gas-fired kiln which she used in the process of preparing her final pieces while (bottom photo) Wade Moravec shows one of his dinosaur-inspired jewelry pieces. Both will be on display at the annual Year End Show & Sale which takes place on June 23 and 24 in downtown Nelson. — Photos courtesy Selkirk College

The educational pathway for students at Selkirk College’s Kootenay Studio Arts (KSA) is an individual journey that results in a creative collection of final projects. On June 23 and 24, students from five studios will showcase their concepts, designs and skill-sets at the annual KSA Year End Show & Sale.

“There are not very many craft schools around anymore that teach these kinds of techniques to students,” says Jewelry Studio student Samonte Cruz. “It’s very unique to have Kootenay Studio Arts in a small community like Nelson.”

Cruz arrived to Nelson’s Victoria Street Campus in 2015 from Keremeos at the suggestion of his Work BC career counsellor. In 2010 while heading to catch a bus in Vancouver, Cruz was hit by a car and broke his C1 vertebrae. Years of rehab ensued and it was determined that he could not return to his former job at Simon Fraser University. Because he still needs to undergo extensive treatment and suffers from chronic pain, it has taken Cruz two years to complete the 10-month KSA certificate program.

“Everyone at KSA has been so accommodating and so supportive,” he says. “Because of the challenges I have, it is difficult and sometimes frustrating to carry out a regular routine. This has been a life-changing experience for me.”

Over the last two years, Cruz has developed his skills in the studio to the point where he is ready to present a couple of lines at the Year End Show & Sale.

“I’m drawn by the process of creating something out of nothing,” he says about the lure of the Jewelry Studio. “I really like working with metal because it is something that seems really rigid, but you are able to manipulate it and work it into a form of my choosing.”

Kaeli Benoit arrived to the Victoria Street Campus this past September from Canmore, Alberta where she enrolled in the Ceramics Studio. An elementary school teacher in a Waldorf-style school in Alberta, she took a leave-of-absence to spend a year in Nelson.

“From day-one we have been in the studio and that is exactly what you need,” Benoit says about the uniqueness of the KSA education. “To have the time to be with the clay in the studio, you learn all the skills. It’s really an amazing program in that sense.”

A few years ago when Benoit was working on her master’s thesis in environmental education, she focused on interviewing potters as a sample population for her academic work. It was during that time that a love of clay started to develop.

“Working with something so malleable and literally working with the earth in your hands is really enticing,” she says. “The process is very engaging… it’s an exploration of learning to have a relationship with the material.”

Not all students sell their works at the Year End Show & Sale, some like Benoit just want to let those who attend see her creations. She will return to Canmore when the certificate program wraps up at the end of June to resume teaching, but her lifelong learning journey will not end as she plans to continue to hone her ceramics skills.

“Getting to walk downstairs to the Blacksmith Studio and walk upstairs to the Jewelry and Textiles Studios… it’s pretty magical,” Benoit says of the last 10 months. “You are in this bubble of creative people which really helps with the overall education.”

Wade Moravec grew up in Salmo dreaming of becoming a paleontologist. After high school he took a break, but returned to the Selkirk College Silver King Campus to upgrade his high school transcripts through Adult Basic Education. Two years ago, Moravec decided to take a different route and enrolled in Kootenay Studio Arts where he continues to pursue his passion for the distant past.

“The jewelry that I produce has an ancient, pre-historic theme,” says the 23-year-old. “It all ties into my fascination with paleontology and archeology which I have loved ever since I was a little kid. I’m all about learning from the ancient past and bringing it into the present to remind people that we were not always here.”

Moravec’s work is intricate, meshing metal with polymer clay and even includes pieces with actual dinosaur bone material. After he completes the program, Moravec has his sights on moving to dinosaur-rich territory around Drumheller, Alberta where his unique jewelry will have even more relevance.

“It’s wearable art that you carry around with you,” he says of his chosen field. “It has significance and meaning because every piece tells a story.”

The KSA students who will be featured in the Year End Show & Sale include Blacksmithing, Ceramics, Textiles, Metal Casting and Jewelry. The show takes place at the Victoria Street Campus (606 Victoria Street) on June 23 (4 p.m. to 8 p.m.) and June 24 (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Admission is free and everyone is invited to come check out the final products and chat with the students.