Jayda Karsten – art, entrepreneurship and social innovation

 In cSPACE News

Calgary is full of creative people who are making our city a better place to live. Notable artists are distinguishing themselves by making an impact through multi-disciplinary work that extends beyond the scope of a standard arts practice. Change-makers are creative practitioners who break down barriers and embrace the challenges that face emerging artists. With ingenuity, change-makers navigate a complex environment by combining entrepreneurial skills, a collaborative mindset and unrelenting tenacity.

Jayda_headshot_1024x1024 Jayda Karsten is a creative change-maker who knows the recipe for success. She combines creativity with entrepreneurial spirit and a mission for social good, inspiring peers to think differently about shaping our city. She knows the importance of understanding the structure of things, both material and systematic. Throughout her young career Jayda has demonstrated an ability to use her fascination with knowledge and materials to influence dialogue and engage with individuals and communities.

Finding the passion: architecture, the arts and a connection to the King Edward

Beginning a career as an architectural technologist, Jayda studied at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in the architectural program. She credits her experience in architecture as helping to define her passions as an artist. The technical work was extremely interesting to her, yet her ambitions extended beyond the specialised role. The idea of working on suburban housing projects and commercial buildings did not appeal to her as an artist. She set out to discover more.

Taking night classes at Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD), she solidified her calling in the arts. After establishing her focus of study and moving into a degree program, she built up a network of peers and mentors that would help deepen her impact as a creative practitioner.

A class at ACAD in 2011 reconnected Jayda with the King Edward. Having spent her early years there as a student in kindergarten through to grade 5, she was intimately attached to the legacy of the heritage building. Her group presented a project that had envisioned a new purpose for the then vacant sandstone building. “The King Edward Residency and Arts Agency” proposal presented the King Edward as a centre that would provide professional development for artists at all career levels. The group went on to present the project to the Marda Loop Community Association as part of their discussions around the future repurposing of the King Edward.

Creative entrepreneurship & social innovation

Despite the success of the group project at ACAD, Jayda felt there was more to learn about arts and entrepreneurship. With the goal of establishing an art-based business Jayda enrolled in the “Women’s Venture” program at Momentum, an organization in Calgary that provides business training and resources for new entrepreneurs. “I sought it out. It was something that I was interested in, not something that was forced down my throat,” says Jayda, who acknowledges that business training is not necessarily for every artist. She wanted to learn the basics of business in order to prepare herself to manage her new endeavours.


d.Talks panel for “Lost Spaces” event, 2014

In 2012 Jayda co-founded the non-profit organization “Design Talks Institute” (d.talks) with Amery Calvelli, Maureen Hodgan and Shannon Lanigan as a multidisciplinary group with a social mission. d.talks’ mission is “to foster collaborative and engaging public conversation about design and the built environment in Calgary.” To date, d.talks has opened up a dialogue between community and professionals who engage with topics including sustainability, public spaces and heritage preservation. Within the two years that d.talks has been in operation, it has held more than eight successful events, bringing together Calgary’s most innovative thinkers and engaging speakers working to make our city a better place to live. Most recently, d.talks won the Calgary Heritage Authority’s Lion Award in the “Advocacy and Awareness” category for their 2013 event called “Let’s talk about… Building ICONOMY”

Check out d.Talks here.

Collaboration builds meaningful relationships

“Winged Apocalypse” at Phantom Wing in 2013 once again reconnected Jayda to the King Edward. Along with artists Jack Bride and Chris Zajko, Jayda used repurposed materials from the soon-to-be-demolished 1960s wings of the King Edward. The collaborative project transformed a classroom into an immersive experience, engaging visitors within the setting of a post-apocalyptic world. Attendees were invited to pose with a set of wings crafted from classroom blinds, taking on the role of a Phoenix rising from the ashes, symbolic of a “spiritual release from within.” The group inspired thousands of visitors, including a very impressed Mayor Nenshi who took the time to experience the wings himself. Check out Phantom Wing here.


Mayor Nenshi at “Winged Apocalypse”, Phantom Wing in 2013. Photo courtesy of Caitlind r.c. Brown

Jayda’s passion for architecture and work through d.talks lead her to approach the Environmental Designs department at the University of Calgary where she curated a show called “Neon: Audio Visual”. Describing the exhibition as “a sensory exploration of the medium of neon in the built environment,” she crafted a dialogue that explores the relationship between human senses and the environment. Jayda curated the work of Alberta artists Dick Averns, Don Hill, and Neil Martin. Each artist contributed pieces resulting from their work with neon signage. The show was exhibited at the Kasian Gallery in the University of Calgary’s Environmental Design building in October, 2014. Check out “Neon: Audio Visual” here.


“Neon: Audio Visual” 2014. University of Calgary, Environmental Design Building

Leaving a lasting legacy

Currently, Jayda is artist in residence at the Calgary Board of Education, University Elementary School, Jayda is part of a program that places art at the foundation of learning. Through explorations in relationships with materials, environmental sustainability and inclusivity, her work is part of a legacy that will empower young minds for the future by encouraging students to think about things more creatively.


As artist in residence at University School, Jayda is using her creativity to inspire students to think about materials in a new way.

Artists often work with many irons in the fire. Jayda is no exception, molding her practice around a strategy that takes a holistic approach, widening her creative impact well beyond the arts. From shaping young minds to think creatively, to engaging with the greater community on social issues, she is redefining what it means to be an artist. She leverages the relationships between distinct silos of research and information. Making connections and combining artistic dexterity with technical discipline, Jayda is defining a new type of artist. Change-makers are fundamental to Calgary’s future as a creative capital.


Jayda at her studio in University Elementary School

Calgary’s creative community needs support from people like you. The King Edward arts incubator will provide space, tools and resources needed to support creative entrepreneurs. Learn more about how you can become a partner here.



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