As part of an MFA graduate course, professor Nancy Holmes offered all of the first-year MFA students a weekend residency at the Woodhaven Eco Culture Centre this year.
First year MFA student Annie Furman spent a long-weekend at Woodhaven in February of 2023. She is pursuing her MFA with a specialization in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on performing arts and sustainability. Annie shared a bit about her creative practice, and her time spent at the Woodhaven Eco Culture Centre.
Tell us a bit about your creative practice
Prior to moving to Kelowna for grad school, I worked as an environmental educator in New York’s Adirondack State Park and managed a remote lodge in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest, and my time in those environments really helped shape my creative/research interests into what I’m working on now at UBCO, which is how local interspecies interactions facilitate community knowledge mobilization and climate solutions education—and how those interactions can be represented through the theatre as a means of community engagement.
What did you do during your time at Woodhaven
I’d been to Woodhaven previously for a couple FCCS and FEELed Lab programs that were very enjoyable and relevant to my work, so I was very happy to have the opportunity to spend some more time at Woodhaven. I’d intended to spend some time getting to know Woodhaven Regional Park better. My creative process usually starts with a hike (or a hack, if I’m on horseback), and the prospect of spending time in the park was something I was very much looking forward to over the weekend. The cougar in the area had other ideas, however, so due to recent sightings and suspected cougar kittens, I went with my contingency plan instead—lots of editing!
How did this residency benefit your writing and art practice
The atmosphere of Woodhaven is wonderfully relaxing. The natural light through the windows, the gurgle of Bellevue Creek outside, the great horned owls hooting at night—it’s my favorite writing soundtrack. As a grad student, my days frequently feel quite cluttered between classes, meetings, and travel to campus. Being at Woodhaven felt like taking a deep breath of fresh air.
Tell us what you learnt about yourself or your practice while you were there
I moved to Kelowna last August from a town with a population of about 500 people. The quiet of Woodhaven made me realize how much I miss creating in non-urban environments. It feels reassuring to know that there’s a space like Woodhaven so close to campus and downtown, where you can slip out of the hustle and bustle of the city for a moment.
What did you accomplish during your time at Woodhaven
I know I said I’m a performing arts person, but with the cougar limiting my time outside, I actually ended up editing several speculative fiction/solarpunk short stories I’ve been working on lately. I’ve been dabbling more in different forms of creative writing after taking a class with Chantal Bilodeau last term on creative writing for community engagement with the climate crisis, so this was a great opportunity to continue with some of that writing.