4elements Living Arts executive director wins prestigious award

Kirsten Nelson of Providence Bay, who is the executive director of 4elements Living Arts, was chosen to receive the first Barbara Vanderhyden Mentorship Program award for her mentoring of young students in science.

PROVIDENCE BAY – It was while having a casual interview last week with the new executive director of 4elements Living Arts, Kirsten Nelson, that she casually mentioned she was supposed to be in Ottawa that evening to win a major award.

“If I was in Ottawa today I would be receiving an award,” Ms. Nelson told the Recorder. Although not at the awards ceremony, she did receive the Barbara Vanderhyden Mentorship Program award for her mentoring of young students in science, through the ‘Let’s Talk Science’ organization. 

Dr. Vanderhyden established and oversees two science outreach programs, Let’s Talk Science/Parlons Sciences, which aims to make science fun for students in Ottawa-area schools; and Science Travels/La Science Voyage, which sends teams of grad students to deliver science workshops in remote First Nations and Inuit communities in the far North.

“I’ve been a mentor for three years, from pre-school students to those in Grade 12,” Ms. Nelson, who holds a degree in mathematics, told the Recorder. “The program in general is to inspire kids’ interest in science. And basically, I and other mentors go into classrooms and try to promote science.”

She said it is fun visiting students in classes in Ottawa and her mentoring has included trips to remote communities such as Deer Lake and Attawapiskat. “It is a really neat program,” she said. “All of the training and your trip and accommodations are paid for.”

“I guess I’m a good mentor,” she said modestly.

Dr. Vanderhyden specializes in ovarian cancer research at the University of Ottawa and Ottawa Hospital. 

Let’s Talk Science is funded through a variety of organizations across Canada. 

As was reported earlier this spring, Ms. Nelson was appointed by 4elements Living Arts as executive director. Previously, she held the position of director of curriculum at TVO.

Born in Sudbury and raised there and in Thunder Bay, Ms. Nelson has been visiting Manitoulin for 20 years and has made her home near Providence Bay since 2014. She holds degrees from Waterloo, York and Carleton universities and is a member of the Ontario College of Teachers. 

She spoke to the Recorder last week about some of the upcoming events she and 4elements will be involved in. 

“At this point we have the annual Elemental Festival, which returns to Kagawong September 26-29. We haven’t announced the (musical) acts, but stay tuned. We will be having three acts each evening, along with art workshops, movies to be held in Kagawong at the Old Church on the Hill, dance, theatre companies and stuff for kids to enjoy.”

Events will take place at the Park Centre, Old Church on the Hill and the Riverbend Stage, said Ms. Nelson. “And if we receive government funding most of the events will be free, except for some of the music.” She stressed that even if funding is not unearthed, the festival will be going ahead.

“Our second priority currently is looking for grants,” said Ms. Nelson. “Whenever a government grant is available, I feel the Island should get its fair share awarded. We are working on grants that fall within our mandate: arts, community and land. And we are working co-operatively with Kenjgewin Teg and Debajehmujig Creation Centre in a professional relationship, to prevent holding events at the same time. And, by working in co-operation with other groups, it is more appealing to the government when they are looking at which groups to support financially.”

“One other important thing we should talk about is that we, 4E, gave up our office in Kagawong a while back,” said Ms. Nelson. “We want to make sure people know we are still operating Island-wide. We’re open to any possibility of a new location to use and are hoping to get a grant to have a mobile studio that we could move to different festivals, powwows, artists-in-residence events and the like. And this mobile studio would act as our office. If funding falls through we will then look at renting a building and will take any community suggestions on locations we could look at.”