April Dean

Top 40 Under 40 2016

Photography Curtis Comeau

Age: 35

Job Title: Executive Director, Society of Northern Alberta Print-artists (SNAP)

Why She’s Top 40: She transformed an under-used artist-run centre into a popular community resource and is an internationally exhibited print artist.

Guilty Pleasure: “Bubble bath, Netflix and wine.”

As April Dean made the grueling drive home to Edmonton from Halifax in 2012, she wondered if she’d made the right choice. She’d just finished an MFA and had been offered a job as executive director of an ailing arts organization in her hometown.

“I got to the Great Lakes and thought, ‘Maybe I should turn around,’ ” she says. But Dean pressed on anyway and, over the next four years, transformed the Society of Northern Alberta Print-artists (SNAP) from an underused, insular artist centre into a popular resource.

The organization is thriving financially thanks to Dean’s efforts to draw more people to the organization, whose downtown location includes 4,000 sq. ft. of studio space for printmaking and exhibition. By partnering with diverse community organizations (like iHuman and the Brown, Black & Fierce Collective) and hosting creative community events (like its semi-regular Drink and Draw evenings), she’s boosted SNAP’s membership drastically. Dean has also increased the non-profit’s public funding at a time when granting agencies have less to offer, and now SNAP has accumulated a surplus of $150,000.

At the same time, Dean teaches at the U of A and exhibits her own work. This October, she spent her birthday in Japan, where she was exhibiting in a large Canadian print show she’d co-curated with well-known print artist Liz Ingram. In coming months, Dean’s first piece of public art will be installed in Oliver’s Paul Kane Park.

Ironically, the only thing hampering her art practice might be the success of SNAP: “It was a ghost town and now it’s so busy, I can’t get a day in there myself,” she laughs. 

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