Laura Grady is passionate about building relationships between artists and the community. As a creative person who has been surrounded by arts and crafts her entire life, Laura values the role art plays in our lives.
Through her work, she is committed to programming spaces and fostering opportunities for artists that celebrate inclusion and diversity. Prior to her role as Program Manager with the Arts Council of New Westminster, Laura spent over 15 years as a freelance writer producing content for various newspapers, online publications and National magazines. Laura spent 10 years operating a monthly film series and partnered with independent movie theatres across the Lower Mainland. Laura has volunteered her time and communication skills to multiple organizations, including Union Gospel Mission, Medical Missions International, and The Vancouver International Children’s Festival.
Laura is an active member of the Tourism New West Board where she serves on the executive team and sits as Chair of the Marketing Committee.
When not coordinating arts events, Laura is often behind her camera capturing people and moments in and around New Westminster.
Manager of Finance & Development
Tracy Bijl is known as a music educator, lyric soprano, textiles artist, and professional arts administrator. For over 20 years, Tracy had performed extensively in British Columbia in the genres of musical theatre, opera, operetta, and oratorio.
She has performed with numerous music organizations including Vancouver New Music, West Coast Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Opera, DragonDiva Opera, North Shore Light Opera, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Sinfonia Orchestra, Vancouver Bach Choir, and Willan Choir. Tracy was a featured semi-finalist in Bravo Channel’s “Bathroom Divas”, and has performed in solo variety ranging from Handel’s Messiah to Berio’s Sequenza III. Tracy is also a member of VWAM, Vancouver Women’s Ambient Music collective, creating with experimental vocal techniques, sound, and synthesizers. Ms. Bijl holds a Bachelor of Music Degree, majoring in Classical Vocal Performance, and has also completed university programs in both Business Administration (Marketing & Management), and Apparel Design. She has experience creating costume design for many small musical theatre and opera companies in BC. Tracy has worked in arts programming and management since 2009, with organizations such as Vancouver Bach Children’s Choirs, Arts Umbrella, and The ACT Arts Centre. She has also taught ECE music programs in the lower mainland for over a decade, and has lent her voice to several animation shorts. Tracy is currently in studio as much as possible, creating a body of work in textile sculpture, studying/exploring through art many current women’s issues worldwide.
Gallery Exhibition Coordinator
Brandi Williams is an avid arts enthusiast and an engaged member of the arts community in New Westminster. She has been living and working in New West since 2014, and is very passionate about the city and community she calls home.
Brandi has an Advanced Certificate (Merit List) in Business Management from Capilano University, and is currently working towards a Certificate in Drawing from Emily Carr University. Prior to taking some time off work to raise her two small children and develop her personal art practice, Brandi worked for many years in Business Management, in the areas of marketing, customer service, and operations. She is an active member of New West Artists Society, an inclusive, non-profit society endeavouring to inspire, encourage, and celebrate visual artists, and currently serves on the Board as Secretary. She has also volunteered her time and skills in the past to organizations such as Easter Seals of BC, assisting in fundraising and event coordination.
The arts have always been a part of Brandi’s life in some capacity or another, and she is passionate about the value that the creative arts bring to individuals, families, and communities as a whole. Brandi looks forward to contributing to the increasingly diverse and inclusive arts community of New Westminster in her new role!
James Groening, Blue Sky
James Groening, or Blue Sky, is a Burnaby-based Cree artist from Kahkewistahaw Band, Turtle Island. Adopted by his white grandparents during the Sixties Scoop, Groening was raised in a farm community in Plains Cree Territory (otherwise known as Manitoba). Although disconnected from his Kahkewistahaw roots, he retained part of his Indian name, Blue Sky, given by mushom, or grandfather, as a child. After meeting his maternal mother and learning of his heritage, he attributes discovering Coast Salish art forms, specifically, drawing a Haida-style hummingbird that inspired him to pursue a journey of reclaiming his Indigeneity.
After learning of the Woodland Art style, Groening did a brief apprenticeship with Ojibway artist Mark Anthony Jacobson to learn how to paint. He continues an ongoing mentorship by one of Norval Morrisseau’s friends and Anishinaabe artist Saul Williams, where he explores painting and drum making in his whimsical, vibrant designs. Led by artistic intuition and native legends, Groening works with the physical nuances and spirit of each canvas and elk skin to begin his creation process. His artwork documents his journey of healing and growth, as he attempts to revitalize his cultural identity through art making and teaching among others.
Board of Directors 2023-2024
Kenna retired from a 30-year career in communications, marketing and public engagement for a large utility company where her work focused on environmental matters, long term energy planning, and Indigenous relations. Since retirement Kenna has pursued her passion for the arts, returning to school to study fine arts at Langara College and joining the Board of Directors for Arts New West.
Dawn is originally from Montreal but has lived in Beautiful British Columbia since November 1st, 1983. She has been a resident of New Westminster since 2014. Before living in B.C., Dawn was a special-ed instructor, but when arriving in BC, her Quebec and Ontario credentials were not accepted here. So, in 1986 she became a realtor.
Secretary & Resource Development
David trained in music, visual arts (Toronto: BA Specialist Fine Arts; UBC: MFA) and theatre (National Theatre School: Scenography). Since 1992 he has designed sets, costumes, lighting and media arts for theatre and dance, has been a key artist for film and television, and conceived original landscape designs.
Recent professional experience includes academic leadership and administrative direction for an undergraduate School with academic programs in dramatic arts, music, studies in arts and culture, and visual arts. He was project lead for new facilities development and launch, production and presentation programs, and initiatives in community revitalization and engagement. He has collaborated on program and schedule design, coordination and implementation, and developed expertise in marketing and communications direction including recruitment and sponsorship.
David has provided leadership in Arts and Culture sector policy development and governance. Responsibilities include community engagement, development, initiatives in public art, and the training of new artists from secondary through professional environments. Across a variety of boards and committees this includes representation, advocacy, facilitation, conference organization, event curation and production (including Alternative, Augmented Communication (AAC) project development) and community service. He has collaborated in community, university, professional and municipal governance in English and French-speaking communities.
Timothy Joseph Varro was born in Regina, Saskatchewan in 1956. His family transplanted to Vancouver, British Columbia where he grew up, worked and thrived.
With over 30 years invested in a career as a contemporary and innovative art teacher, educational leader and art administrator, he made his mark pioneering new technologies in media arts, digital and sound art, video art, computer animation and television production.
The diversity of his teaching skills goes beyond live theatre, television and film to include graphic design, photography, worked as a consultant for television programs. With such a full and storied involvement in his teaching career, Tim’s art practice took a backseat for a time, and now while in retirement, he is now more fully engaged in creating a body of art.
Tim’s narrative reflects an underlying subjective experience of an early life-changing car accident and a resulting spinal cord injury, and the predicament this put him in.
Wendy was born in Vancouver and currently lives in Queensborough. Prior to retiring, she worked in municipal government for 24 years.
She has a passion for travelling which includes exploring new destinations by motor biking with her husband. Other interests include fitness, going for walks, exploring new eateries and spending quiet time listening to music and reading.
Discovering what a community has to offer with respect to Arts and Culture is something that Wendy feels connects us all. This is what makes a city “live”.
She looks forward to the opportunity to being a member of the Arts Council New Westminster.
Alie (She/Her) is a New West local who grew up in the arts and culture scene as a highland dancer, and as an avid participant in the Arts Council’s summer programs.
She has recently returned to New Westminster from a ten-year stay in Hamilton, Ontario, where she earned her BA in art history from McMaster University, and her diploma in television broadcasting and communications from Mohawk College. She carried her passion for the arts into her credentials, ultimately creating “The Artists of Brantf[e]rd,” a series of vignettes highlighting professional artists living and working in the quirky city of Brantford, Ontario. Alie also worked as an assistant-director and assignment producer at Hamilton’s local news station, where she was able to connect with yet another hyper-local arts and culture scene from the newsroom.
In her return to the city, Alie hopes to reconnect and give back to her hometown with the experiences and perspective she’s gained from living in Hamilton and working in the media production industry. She has recently completed a Graduate Certificate in Arts & Entertainment Management from Capilano University.
Director at Large
Dr. Colleen Maybin (she/her) is the Director of Performing and Fine Arts at Douglas College in New Westminster, BC. She lives in Tsawwassen BC, on the traditional lands of the Tsawwassen Nation. Colleen is a producer, educator, and arts leader who specializes in the practice of community-engaged arts. Her professional experience includes over 15 years with performing arts organizations in Vancouver, London UK, and across North America. Colleen’s academic research focuses on critical pedagogy, social justice, and music education. She holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of Victoria, and a Bachelor of Education and Master of Education from the University of British Columbia.
Colleen is best known for her ability to establish deep connections between art, audiences, and contemporary society. “I believe arts organizations, artists, and arts educators are essential to the development of healthy, vibrant communities. The arts are how we tell the stories of who we are, where we came from, and what we believe in. Engaging with arts is how we know ourselves and learn from each other.”
Director at Large
Mishel (she/her) is a mixed media artist. She primarily focuses on abstract acrylic painting, but applies the same motives and work method to many other mediums including glass, ceramics, and textiles. Her main focus is to create a piece that speaks to the audience aesthetically while also being able to express memories, concepts and emotions through it.
Mishel is the owner and manager of the Arrieta Art Studio in New West and Co-curator of the APTPOP gallery. She has a Bachelors of Fine Arts from KPU and has worked as an EA and Child & Youth worker for 6+ years.
Bob has been a resident of New Westminster for eleven years and currently enjoys the vibrant life on the Quay where he plays jazz with other residents. Raised to appreciate the arts, he embraces the notion that the arts are essential for a well rounded life. He spent 25 years in senior Marketing and Customer Service roles before joining Kwantlen Polytechnic University as a Marketing Instructor. His claim to fame was the creation and launch of BC Hydro’s Power Smart program.
He previously volunteered with the TriCity Arts Council and The Port Moody Art Centre to address their communication issues and hopes to bring this same expertise to the Arts Council in New Westminster.