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Young Artists for Systems Change

Update June 28, 2022: Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who attended last weekend’s Symposium. It was truly a privilege to direct this event and share space with an amazing group of people. For a summary of the event feel free to read this article by Brett McKay of Taproot Edmonton:

“Young artists gather to explore climate change and just transition

Coming to Edmonton and online June 26, 2022!
2PM- Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts (225 118 Ave NW)
To Register, email:


Young Arts & Culture for Systems Change: A Creative Visioning Symposium

Young Arts & Culture for Systems Change: A Creative Visioning Symposium will be a youth-driven one-day event for any and all Albertans taking place in Edmonton (and live streamed on zoom) on June 26th, 2022. The symposium will feature artists from different disciplines who will present or perform their work exploring the theme of what a “Just and Sustainable Energy Transition in Alberta”. This will be followed by a panel discussion, then a Q&A and a group activity.

Our goal  is to create a collective summit of young Albertan voices, who use varying artistic practices to mobilize different perspectives. By sharing our differences, this project uses a peer-driven approach that is co-design and co-created through the art of storytelling.

Artists and Cultural Workers are key players in the fight for Just and Equitable Energy Transition.

Not everyone uses the same language to talk about climate. Although climate change and the need for transitioning into more sustainable methods of functioning have been known societal issues for many years, conversations and engagement on these topics are not always accessible or inclusive. We can throw statistics and graphs to audiences for days on end, but unfortunately these can be alienating at times and fail to foster investment in the issue because there is nothing offered at an emotional level. This is where artists and creative practitioners become key players in the effort towards net zero. 

Whether it be a movie, podcast, play, or painting, works produced by artists have the power to make people care about issues such as sustainability, that can otherwise feel confusing or overwhelming. Platforms to amplify the voices and work of artists and cultural workers who are tackling these issues will help shift public consciousness and bring equity into climate-related conversations by addressing issues on an accessible, intuitive, emotional level.

Our Team

Emele Neufeld, Artist

Champion male traditional dancer hailing from the east coast, Emele is a member of the Mi’kMaq peoples of Chapel Island Potlotek. He comes from the Moose clan of Marshall’s that gave him his love of the Mowi’omi or pow-wow that shaped his culture and world views. Emele has been an Indigenous ambassador since the age 7- knowing his mission at the age of 5.

With his degree in Child & Youth Care from Grant Macewan University, Emele developed his strength based developmental approach to people. The theoretical developmental knowledge gained, informed a more in depth understanding of barriers inhibiting Indiginous peoples through intergenerational trauma. Emele aspires to connect the stories of Indigenous peoples to the actions we take, and hopes to create healing within communities, and to share this narrative.

Breanna Barrington, Artist

Breanna Barrington is a multimedia artist based on Treaty 6 territory. A recent graduate of the University of Alberta Fine Arts program, Breanna’s work has shown at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Alberta Council for Ukrainian Arts, Mile Zero Dance, hcma Architecture, and more. Having dedicated much energy to art and sustainability, Breanna has been active in local environmental communities, volunteered extensively, and participated in planning the Resilience Festival hosted by the Edmonton Permaculture Guild.

Combining invitational prompts, trash vignettes, and illustration, Breanna unearths metaphors which explore the relationship between modern urbanity and the not-so-distant past. By utilizing recycled matter from back alleys, the River Valley, and thrift stores, they give forgotten items a new poetic context. Through careful arrangement, these materials are given a new life. Breanna hopes for her work to invoke hopeful action against the climate crisis, while raising awareness around local action items in line with United Nations Sustainability goals.

Jason Romero, Artist

Jason Romero is a nationally recognized dance artist and independent choreographer from Edmonton, Alberta. Working in both stage and film Jason’s successes span a multitude of mediums and audiences. His formative years were spent training at Marr Mac Dance and the Victoria School of the Arts studying Ballet, Jazz, Lyrical, and Contemporary. He continued his training in Vancouver where he explored more disciplines and kickstarted his career in dance. Jason has danced and presented works across Canada and the United States.

Jason’s movement work is evocative, emotional, and deeply narrative. Young Arts and Culture for System’s change would see the world premiere of a new, environmentally-driven performance and kinetic call to action by Jason.

Maren Kathleen Elliott, YASC Director

Maren is an emerging social-practice artist, curator, and community activator with a background in education. Her expressive modalities include movement, visual arts, storytelling, and music, and her approach is deeply collaborative. Maren has spearheaded community-based arts activations (from live concerts, art exhibitions, and panel discussions to workshops) across Canada, including projects in Edmonton, Ottawa, Toronto, and Online. She is a strong believer in arts as activism and catalyst for change. Through art, she engages communities on numerous levels: as a participant, creator, ethnographer and curious student of life.

Riley Tenove, Artist / YASC Coordinator

At 10 I moved to Edmonton where I have lived and worked most my life. In 2012 I graduated from GrantMacEwan University with a diploma in fine arts. I regularly show art in the Edmonton area to share my interests and growing understanding of urban life. Issues with backpain lets me explore bodily representations with our narratives around pain. My practice also flips between that and multimedia explorations of urban politics in the built environment. Being from a family interested in community building and having worked in a restorative justice non-for-profit these topics are channeled into all of my work. I am inspired by re-using found materials, values hidden in urban infrastructure, and playing with the way we see our gathering spaces.

Kirsten Kubina, Artist/YASC Assistant

Kirsten is an Edmonton-based dancer, model, crafter, and Recreation Therapy student. With a background in coaching, tutoring, and human resources, Kirsten has extensive experience working with youth and helping them learn and grow. She believes in the potential of all human beings and the strength of communities to make the world a better place.

Special thanks to Energy Futures Lab for making this project possible.