Summer Students Making a Difference: Two Rivers Gallery

Melanie Bellwood | News Director

Summer is in full swing and the students of the University of Northern British Columbia have been busy. While many have travelled across province and country to get home, some have chosen to stay in Prince George to participate in Canada Summer Jobs student positions across the city. One example is Braughn Loften, who is staying in Prince George to fill the position of Regional Outreach Coordinator at the Two Rivers Gallery. Born in East Vancouver and raised in New Westminster, Loften’s intentions in Prince George lay originally in schooling only.
“Prince George was exciting for me because of the opportunity to study while still being able to afford rent an basic living needs. Eventually, I just wanted to stay for the opportunities that UNBC opened me up to,” Loften said.
It did not take long, however, for Loften to become involved in UNBC’s student community. They remember visiting the Nothern Pride Centre for the first time on SLO (Student Led Organizations) days in the Fall semester of 2017 and becoming an active member of the Pride Centre community by October of the same semester.
“Walking into the PC [Pride Centre] that first day, I knew right away that I wanted to run that place someday soon and really start helping make a difference,” Loften said.
Now the Vice President of the Pride Centre at UNBC, Loften has expanded their horizons to the wider Prince George community. Wanting to stay for the cheap food and living expenses, Loften applied at the Two Rivers Gallery for the same reasons as any other student – to fund their schooling for the next year. Instead, they found their new position as Regional Outreach Coordinator to be an academically and emotionally fulfilling opportunity. Loften states that, “as someone who wants to go into environmental education, this position is allowing me to explore the Prince George region as I visit the rural and outlying elementary schools of School District 57. Having gone to a high school focused heavily on the arts, I love the community and appreciation that comes with an artistic environment, and can explore that here while gaining experience within the educational field. My background is working with kids so this is something that makes me feel really comfortable.”
These opportunities in smaller cities such as Prince George are not only invaluable for the students, but doubly so for the institutions that hire them. Depending on the position, students are offered the agency to organize, prepare, and complete major community events. These positions relieve the workload of permanent employees, allowing them to make these events bigger and better for the students who run them in consecutive years, as well as the participants who attend them. This is especially notable for students such as Sebastian Nicholson, a Fine Arts student transferring to UNBC to study English and History. Having spent the last couple years involved in the UNBC Musical Production Club, he has always had an eye for community coordination and involvement. This year, he has taken on the role of BMO Kidz Art Days Coordinator and as this is the event’s 28th year, he is planning for it to be well attended.
“Over the last few years, our attendance has been doubled from approximately two-thousand attendees to five-thousand and this year we are preparing for ten-thousand. Planning is a huge undertaking, especially when the coordinator is a new person every year, but everyone here [at the gallery] works really hard to teach students like us how to do our positions while still allowing us to make major decisions. This is probably the best job I’ve ever had,” Nicholson said.
Students looking to expand their resumes or gain experience in the workforce are not limited to a paid position. The Gallery is always looking for volunteers and BMO Kidz Art Days is where they are needed the most. Managing Director of the Two Rivers Gallery, Carolyn Holmes, encourages people to come for a variety of reasons, “Kidz Art Days have always been fun and free, so even if you are not looking to volunteer, we are always excited to see new faces there every year! Everyone is welcome.”
The event runs on July 6 and 7 and caters to all kids and kids-at-heart by exposing them to fun activities such as hula hooping, Zumba, music, Yoga, giant spinner art, slime making, and many more. Sponsored by organizations such as BMO (Bank of Montreal), the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George, Northern Development Initiative Trust, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and countless others, this event brings together many people in a short time-span to create and enjoy art. Anyone looking to help out their community and support summer students at work can get involved by contacting Sebastian Nicholson at kidzartdayz@tworiversgallery.ca for further details.
Loften’s position is fully funded by Canada Summer Jobs, a program that they describe as making the impossible a reality in a smaller city like Prince George. “I didn’t really realize it at the time, but finding work in my career field as a student would have been impossible without the funding provided by Canada Summer Jobs; it’s a great way to become a part of a place that I am still just getting to know” Loften said. As this is only a summer position, Loften also expresses interest in other Canada Summer Jobs opportunities for their future summers in Prince George. These positions, as well as those funded by Young Canada Works, are available in other established organizations throughout the city, such as Huble Homestead Historic Site, the Prince George Railway Museum, and The Exploration Place Museum and Science Centre, enabling students of humanities and education at UNBC to gain valuable experience before moving from academia to a career. For more information about Canada Summer Jobs and Youth Canada Works across the country, please visit www.canada.ca