Even as a small university, there are often a lot of interesting projects going on beyond the view of a typical student. For instance, did you know that UNBC has an art room? Tucked away on the third floor of the Rotunda Gallery, in amongst science labs and offices, such a creative space can be found. All you have to do is follow the hallway full of sparkles, plants, paintings, and memories.
The vision to create such a space on campus comes from Professor Si Transken, who has passionately dedicated herself to developing a creative sanctuary over several years with very little money. The art room supplies and furniture come from many generous donations from community members and scavenging useful items that would otherwise end up in the trash.
“It’s a room that appears and disappears,” Dr. Transken says, “It was almost like, for a few years I was in here with a key and nobody knew we were here, and I was kind of okay with that, because it was our best kept secret. But now, we’ve been using it for the [Northern] Women’s Centre, for meetings, I’ve taught classes in this room. So it’s kind of like a concrete manifestation – or womanifestation – of feminism, social justice activism, creativity, it’s a whole bunch of things.”
With a background in social work, and race/gender studies, Dr. Transken can often be found teaching classes in social work and feminist practice, spending time in the Northern Women’s Centre, dreaming about new ideas for the art room, or trying to convince you to take on a recently discovered stray cat. This wealth of experience is what drives Dr. Transken, as well as motivated her to complete a diploma from the Vancouver Art Therapy Institute (VATI) and become an accredited Art Therapist.
What is art therapy and why should we care about it? According to VATI, “Art Therapy is a mental health profession that combines the process of creative art expression with models of counselling and psychotherapy to enhance emotional, physical, and mental health. Art Therapy provides the client with an opportunity to explore personal problems and potentials, resolve conflicts, and facilitate self-awareness and understanding, through the use of simple art materials.” It is with this philosophy in mind that Professor Transken holds space in the art room for fellow ARTivists, or activists who use art as their main medium of resistance. Dr. Transken identifies “ARTivism as one of her Super powers that she can apply to improving the world!”
The important work done by Dr. Transken over a couple decades is challenging to summarize in its diversity, making it difficult for her to give a simple answer to the question: “what do you do at UNBC?” To aid in this and to share her work and knowledge, students have been working on a video project. These videos feature interviews with Professor Transken in her art room, discussing in more detail the passion she holds for her work and the joy it has brought her. Students had the opportunity to edit these videos and share them on Youtube.
Currently, ten videos have been posted, and there are plans for more, including a tour of the art room and other spaces on campus which art occupies, interviews with Dr. Transken on the art in the first floor of the Rotunda Gallery, and other creativity-centred events. If you are interested in viewing any of this content, please visit by searching “ARTivism PG” on Youtube. Hit the “subscribe” button to keep up to date as the project continues and more videos are uploaded. As well, Professor Transken’s art is available for sale, with all proceeds going back into the art room project.