Stephanie Jonsson

Top 40 Under 40 2009

Photography 3TEN

Age: 26

Job Title: Lead artist, instructor and educator, Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts

Why She’s a Top 40: For creating award-winning art and teaching her talent to Edmontonians to ensure a legacy of imagination lives on in the community

As a perennially high-achieving student, Stephanie Jonsson had her choice of potential career paths. But right from her toddler days, she has felt a deep-seated need to create art. And since finishing an award- and scholarship-laden BFA here in her hometown, she has assembled an enviable list of exhibitions, grants and positive media attention – most recently for her “suggestive, ambiguous, surreal, underwater-ish” work in ceramics and fibre.

While others with budding careers might focus solely on their own output, Jonsson reaches out by teaching art to groups of all ages at the Art Gallery of Alberta and to developmentally disabled adults at the Nina Haggerty Centre.

“It doesn’t matter which age or ability or level they’re at, I feel like I’m learning something from them, they’re learning something from me, and that exchange is very valuable,” says Jonsson, who recently completed a two-month creative residency at the Banff Centre. “I don’t really think of myself as a romantic artist who stays in their studio all the time. I like to interact with people, and I think it really feeds into the energy that I have towards my work.”

Choosing an artist’s life can be a ticket to poverty and struggle, and Jonsson acknowledges some ups and downs and uncertainty on the path. “You keep getting rejected for shows and it becomes a little disheartening. Like, right now, I keep getting rejected from graduate school,” she says, with an optimistic laugh.

But her determination is unwavering. She continues to be active in the community and in “applying and applying and applying” for grants, shows and residencies. Unsurprising to anyone but Jonsson, she has garnered several of those opportunities she repeatedly strives for.

Jonsson’s next step is to pursue a master’s degree in ceramics. She’ll have to leave town to do it, as there is no program available in Edmonton. But don’t be surprised if she comes home again. “I’d like to teach at the post-secondary level because it’s something I really get so much out of,” she says. “Right now, I feel there’s a good amount of artists in Edmonton, and that they’re being supported. [But] we could always have more.”

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