Three nominees named for mayor's award

Three arts teachers well known in the community for their dedication to teaching as well as to their art have been selected as nominees for the third annual Mayor's Award for the Arts.

Rhona Armes, Sheda Petersen and Tricia Sellmer were chosen from a dozen candidates submitted by the community in this year's award category of recognition - arts educator.

Only one of them will receive the honour to be presented Jan. 23 at the Mayors Gala for the Arts at Kamloops Convention Centre, but being nominated is an honour in itself, Armes said Monday.

Coincidentally, she'd driven into Kamloops from her home "past Pinantan" Monday to teach a pottery workshop to 11 youths participating in Katimavik, the national volunteer service program. The workshop was a creative followup to an earlier lesson on the basics.

"Everybody's hands are different," she said.

Armes has been an art teacher for 30 years, having taught in Williams Lake, Ashcroft, Salmon Arm and Kamloops. She was education co-ordinator at Kamloops Art Gallery in the 1980s, before assuming her last public school job at John Petersen. In recent years she has operated a potting studio, Open Armes, and is president of the Kamloops Courthouse Gallery artists co-operative.

Armes recently got an email from a ex-student who had difficulty staying in high school. He has since received a degree in digital design.

"To have faith in kids," she said. "That's what we have to do."

Not surprisingly, all three nominees know each other. Armes took a job at JP because she knew Petersen was there and she respected her work.

Originally from South Africa, where she was schooled in drama, Petersen arrived in Kamloops in 1968 and taught at JP for 27 years.

"There was nothing here, even in the community, other than Tom Kerr and his students," she recalled. Like Kerr - who founded the forerunner of Western Canada Theatre - Petersen played a formative role in changing that, helping to found Kamloops Players and working with the Kamloops Operatic Society. The late David Ross asked her to fill the role of Lizzie Borden in WCT's 1996 production The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon.

"You learn from everybody in this craft; you never really know it all, and that's what's fascinating."

Though she never intended to teach ("I didn't want to teach my passion, I wanted to be my passion"), teaching became a passion in itself. The productions she directed for JP students are fondly remembered by many. Former students still contact her a decade after she retired.

"That's the joy for me: The kids out there doing the work."

Sellmer is among the most successful painters in Kamloops but was a teacher before turning professional artist. Since her early career years at Burnaby's Stoney Creek School of Art, she has taught in non-institutional settings for organizations such as the Kamloops Arts Council, Kamloops Art Gallery, Arnica and TRU. A KAG studio dedicated to community education bears her name, honouring her direct financial contributions to pay for it.

Earlier this year she has obtained her master's in fine arts degree on an international scholarship through Austria's Danube University, a three-year effort that proved to be one of the highlights of her career.

"I think it's quite prestigious even to be nominated, but it's an honour to be nominated with these other two women," she said.

Public nominations were invited in November, a first for the award. The three were selected by a committee of representatives from WCT, KAG and Kamloops Symphony. Mayor Peter Milobar has the task of selecting the winner.

Tickets for the gala, a joint fundraiser, are available for $80 for Kamloops Live! Box Office, www.kamloopslive.com.

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