Every community has some kind of a creative culture or society within its roots – some are more defined and some are just waiting for a chance to flourish. The Cariboo is a place where creativity overflows and is only growing bigger. Part of that creative influence on our region is local artist and arts administrator, Leah Selk.
Born and raised in the Cariboo, Leah was keen on the arts from a very young age. She started at the age of eight in summer classes at the Station House Gallery with sketching. “The Station House was so important to me,” Leah recalls, “they treated me like a real artist. They would put on student exhibitions which included an exhibition opening and the media.”
Throughout school, Leah found that she had some really great opportunities to explore her creativity through a variety of mediums. “I had great teachers who were very supportive; in high school, we had the opportunity to work with wood carving, clay, silkscreen, and linocut to create art and sample various mediums,” Leah remembers. With the exposure to so many types of art, Leah found that she was multitalented.
After taking a couple of years off after high school, Leah left Williams Lake in search of an education in the arts. She attended Camoson College in Victoria for two years, taking a fundamental program that included animation, photography, and performing arts to name just a few. Through this opportunity, she focussed on her passion for drawing and photography. From there, Leah went to Montreal and completed a four year Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree at Concordia University with a major in Photography.
While at Concordia, she worked as a photography technician at the University, which included maintaining and assisting with the darkrooms and large-format printers. Over the summers, she returned to Williams Lake and worked at the Station House Gallery as a summer student. This opened the door to return to Williams Lake when Leah was offered a position there as the exhibition co-coordinator following her graduation.
Leah is now the Central Cariboo Arts and Culture Society Executive Director, where she has been for the last five years. “I have a passion for working with the different groups and individuals to bring their ideas and projects to life,” says Leah. “It is my job to bring all of the knowledge and resources together to help artists and organizations. There is a group for everybody, and I advocate for that.”
There are over seventy arts and cultural groups and programs that Leah works with. The Society oversees the Central Cariboo Arts Centre, a project grants program, fee for service agreements, Performances in the Park and a host of other activities.
The relationships that Leah builds with the artists and the groups help to build the Arts community and provide opportunity for artistic outlets. As for Leah herself, she still loves to draw and explore photography but lately it’s gardening that steals her imagination. “The earth is its own canvas,” says Leah. Even though most of her time is spent helping others and growing the arts community, Leah expresses her deep appreciation for this community and how much it has given to her. “We are so lucky to have such a dynamic arts community going on here in the Cariboo”. Leah’s long term plan is to stay here and continue to grow the arts and her garden. As for relationships, whether its pencil and paper, photographer and subject, or like-minded artists, Leah has formed deep ones, and will continue to build her network of relationships for some time to come.