Staff and Board

Seeking New Board Members

We are looking for Board Members that believe in our mission and are willing to be active in their governance roles. We are open to candidates of all abilities but prefer individuals that identify as living with a disability. Bring your passion for the arts and help us continue to grow and make all of the arts more accessible to all Canadians.

Contact: Yuri Arajs / 604-343- 9141 / kickstartdirector@gmail.com

Staff

Yuri Arajs, Artistic Director
Yuri joined the staff as Artistic Director in October 2015. His original connection to Kickstart was in 2001 when he presented at the 1st Kickstart International Disability Arts and Culture Festival in Vancouver. Yuri has worked with and represented artists who live with disabilities for more than two decades. Having founded numerous art non-profit organizations and galleries, Yuri has worked with and shown the artwork of hundreds of artists who live with disabilities, from the USA, Canada, and internationally. Yuri has an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art (USA), a BFA from Kean University (USA), and an Associates Degree in graphic design from Middlesex College (USA).

Kait Blake, Administrative Assistant

She is thrilled to be a part of such an amazing organization, as she is extremely passionate about inclusion and supporting everyone to live a happy and fulfilling life. While she is not an artist per se, she has been a lover and supporter of the arts since early childhood. Much of her youth was devoted to participation in every theatre endeavour available to her, whether it be performing, working backstage or attending productions. When she wasn’t doing that she was performing original plays for her family, friends & stuffed animals, creating artistic “masterpieces” (and messes), singing in choirs (or anywhere she was allowed to sing) and writing short stories & angsty teen poetry. These days she is an avid paper crafter, novice seamstress, an enthusiastic dog & cat mom, lover of food/cooking and recently has joined a choir and started writing again. Kait lives with severe depression & anxiety and is vehement about breaking down stigma associated with mental illness. While her educational & career background was mostly tourism, she has recently shifted into the mental health field. She is a trained Peer Support Worker and is currently working for The Kettle Society on their Vancouver Opera partnership project.

Board of Directors

Jake Anthony,President
Actor, theatre instructor and media arts correspondent. I am a professional actor in theatre and commercials living with high-functioning Autism. I have been an advocate for people with special needs and families for over a decade. During that time, I have served as an advocate and Board/Committee member for non-profit organizations such as:, Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network, the Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion, Autism Canada, Inclusion BC and the BC Council for Families. I also volunteered as a member of the City of Burnaby Access Advisory Committee for six years. I am a proud graduate of the William Davis Centre for Actors’ Study at the Vancouver Institute for Media Arts.

Marisa Olson, Vice President
Marisa Olson is an artist, writer, curator, and former punk singer. In 2004 she auditioned for popular American television show American Idol as an artistic project. Over the course of three months of daily “training exercises,” it is revealed that she is critiquing gender norms entrenched by the show, while also using the popularity of her site to speak to readers about using their voice to vote in elections as well as on the show. Her work combines performance, video, painting/drawing, and installation to address the cultural history of technology, experiences of gender, and the relationship between pop culture and politics. Olson was a founding member of the Nasty Nets’ “Internet Surfing Club”, a web-based net art group documenting and remixing their experiences online. Through Nasty Nets and with the sponsorship. Olson is an active writer and lecturer in the field of media theory and politics. She has also been a visiting artist at Yale, SAIC, VCU, Oberlin, UT-Austin, UW-Madison, Penn, and elsewhere. She has been a Master Artist in Residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, an Eyebeam Resident, and an Artist in Residence at the Corwin Physics Labs at the University of Oregon.

Kim Almond, Secretary
Community Support Worker, Artist.
I am a visual artist. I studied Studio Art at Capilano University and Emily Carr University of Art And Design. I have worked as a community support worker for many years. I teach art classes for the Developmental Disabilities Association and organize community art shows.

Cathy Browne, Member at Large
Cathy will tell you about herself soon!
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Wendy D, Member at Large
Wendy will tell you about herself soon.
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Adam Grant Warren
Adam has appeared in stage productions including Frank Theatre’s All In and Touchstone’s Scene/Change. He frequently collaborates with the All Bodies Dance Project, and he was the director and librettist behind Pipedream’s Fringe Festival hit, CAPS LOCK!: The Musical! His latest show, Last Train In, was recently developed with the Playwrights Theatre Centre’s National Writers’ Colony.
Adam’s film work has appeared in festivals including Newport Beach, the NSI All-Star Reel, and VIFF – where he won Best Canadian Short in 2012. He was also the youngest ever winner of the Arts and Letters Fiction Award, and the Storey Literature Medal.

Advisory Board Members

Lissette Guajardo
Personal Trainer / Inner Peace Fitness.

Athena Cooper
Email Marketing Specialist.

Emma Kivisild
Artist / Writer.