The New Brunswick Arts Board is an arm’s length arts funding agency with a legislated mandate to facilitate and promote the creation of art as well as administering funding programs for professional artists in the province.
Katrina Slade is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and practices in Fredericton, NB. Like many artists, the pandemic has deeply influenced her arts practice. Over the last year and a half, she has navigated the uncertainties of the pandemic to discover the unlimited potential of her arts career. Back in June, I had the opportunity to interview Katrina via Zoom and talk a bit more about what sparked so many successes for her over the last year.
It’s so great to meet you, Katrina! Can you tell me a bit about your mentorship experience, for which you received a Career Development grant from artsnb?
I had done a mentorship previously through ArtslinkNB’s Catapult Program and thought the experience had been really beneficial to my practice. I wanted to replicate the experience, but this time explore the entrepreneurial side of my work. When I did the Catapult Program, it became really clear the direction I wanted to take with my work: I wanted to tackle art licensing and art consulting. I took an online art consulting course in 2019 from Katie Brennan and loved the way she thought about the business of art. I thought of her as a good fit as a mentor for me, so I met with her online one-on-one, and we discussed what we could work on together. It happened to be a great fit, so I applied to the Professional Development component of the Career Development program at artsnb and got the grant!
What pace did your mentorship take?
Katie suggested we meet once a month for an hour; I never felt it was enough! (laughs) She suggested that so she could see the big picture and I could refine my vision and implement it in my arts practice while remaining autonomous through the process. I was in control of my career, making my own choice, but I could seek guidance from her. She was able to grasp a good outside perspective and make me understand the possibilities offered to me.
The first thing she suggested I do was to set up online art classes because I had previous experience working as an instructor as part of the Edventures Program with the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design. I felt really intimidated; I had never created video content before. But Katie kept on encouraging me and I ended up doing it. This project led me to pursue more funding opportunities to acquire the proper equipment to produce the videos for the online classes. I applied for a Special Projects fund through GNB and with that, I ended up hiring another emerging artist, a recently graduated filmmaker, to assist me in the video creation.
I created online art journaling on-demand classes, because it was the course I was already teaching for the Edventures program. We were in the core of the pandemic, and I thought it would be a good resource for individuals struggling with their mental health. The lessons address concepts of resilience, compassion, mindfulness, nature therapy; all lessons include meditation. I feel art journaling is a great emotional outlet for people, and I hope they can use the lessons for their own enjoyment and personal development. Creating these lessons involved so many first times! It took me a lot longer than expected, but I did it. The classes have been online for a year now.
How did the theme you explored in those classes tie in with your own creative practice?
My creative practice has always been rooted in emotional concepts. I am a very sensitive person, so I am really in touch with my emotions and have been practicing mindfulness for years; it has always influenced my practice. I guess I could say that my work is always based on, or inspired, by what I want to manifest in my life. For instance, I was doing a series on self-compassion because I really needed self-compassion for myself. My latest projects are about kindness and compassion towards others. I really want to encourage others to practice kindness and compassion to create unity in the world, which I feel we desperately need.
Can you share a bit about what you are currently working on?
I have been invited to the International Contemporary Art Biennale in Florence, Italy, for which I am creating a big installation piece. This project is directly connected to another one I did as part of my mentorship last summer. While I was still working with my mentor, she encouraged me to apply to a call for public art by the city of Fredericton. I had never done public art before, so I was a bit hesitant. In the end my project was selected, and I created my installation piece Weathergram for good, which was exhibited in the summer of 2020 in front of city hall. I created an installation and could not believe I did it; I was doing so many things outside my comfort zone! But from that project came my bigger installation piece for the Biennale. It will involve using some of the elements from Weathergram for good but the piece will be sort of a big tent that viewers can enter so that they can interact with the piece; it is a similar concept but a different installation format.
You also received an Arts Abroad grant this year from the Canada Council for the Arts, is it to go to the Biennale in Florence?
Yes, I did receive that grant, but they weren’t able to actually give me the money yet because of restrictions on international travel. The logistics of the project during the pandemic really make it hard for me to see this project coming to life. It is taking me months and months to make the work. It is a delicate balance between making the work and the desire to exhibit it in Florence, and it is hard to do that with that much uncertainty given that we are in a pandemic.
It sounds like this mentorship really challenged your practice; do you think your practice has changed since the mentorship experience?
The project I did last summer, which I never thought I would be able to do, evolved into this project I am currently working on, and I never thought of myself as an installation artist! Before the mentorship, I would say “I am an abstract artist.” I would use paint or do mixed media paintings or collage with acrylic, but I never worked on anything sculptural. But since my last mentorship, things have changed, I am not just a painter anymore, I do all these other things; now I say I am a multidisciplinary artist. Katie has put me on that trajectory where I did a lot of things I had never done before, and since then I do not see my practice in such a limited way anymore. She helped me re-invent my practice. I did not know what to expect before starting the mentorship with her, we did a lot of business talk but mostly talked about mindset to help me grow as an artist. The mentorship gave me the confidence to move forward. She helped me see my unlimited potential as an artist. We aligned on a lot of spiritual beliefs, and mindsets, she really helped me with my confidence and self-belief.
It looks like you fared pretty well as an artist during the pandemic, do you find that?
It was such a huge transformational year for me, and I would never have expected it to be. I guess I was just in that ‘zone’. But I was also exhausted, working hard on different projects, sometimes simultaneously. The biggest projects of my career to date happened during the pandemic. It is pretty cool to see where I was before the pandemic and where I am at now, and seeing how far I have come.
Before we leave, do you have a podcast, a show, or a book you would recommend that is inspired by your mentorship experience?
Katrina Slade is a third-generation interdisciplinary visual artist with a lifelong passion for creativity. Her work is often inspired by a personal response to her environment, typically emphasizing uplifting and positive messages. Katrina’s primary medium is acrylic painting, and sometimes creates sculptural or installation work.
Katrina earned a BFA specializing in painting and drawing, followed by an MA in 2011 in her home state of Oregon. World travel has been instrumental in her artistic growth. After spending the decade of her twenties traveling and working overseas, she immigrated to Canada in 2018.
Katrina has enjoyed several solo exhibitions, as well as participated in multiple two-person and group shows in Europe and North America. Her work has been published in books, magazines, and is in private collections in various countries around the world. She currently lives and works in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
(Photo credit: Sarah Sarty)
Stay up to date with Katrina’s practice and give her a follow on her social media accounts!
Catch up with her: Katrina will be in Saint-Andrews at the KIRA residency from August 24th until September 21st. She will also be bringing her project Weathergrams for good across schools as soon as the pandemic is under control. She looks forward to empower students through the act of creation and while promoting mindfulness, kindness, and compassion.
As a provincial entity, the New Brunswick Arts Board acknowledges that it carries out its work on the traditional unceded territory of the Wolastoqiyik, Mi’kmaq and Peskotomuhkati peoples. Read the full statement.