The CVAG Team

General Inquiries

580 Duncan Ave. Courtenay BC V9N 2M7
gallery and administration:


CVAG Staff Members

Sharon Karsten

Executive Director

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Sharon Karsten is a community organizer, academic and activist whose passion for community engagement through art is expressed through program development. Through various angles, Sharon’s work explores the role that professional art practices play in activating marginalized voices, and enabling new forms of critical awareness within communities. Sharon has been working with the Gallery in an administrative and leadership role since 2011, and has been pursuing a PhD through Simon Fraser University’s School of Communication – focusing on community video and small city cultural policy.

Angela Somerset


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Angela Somerset is the Curator/Program Director at the Comox Valley Art Gallery. She is also an instructor at North Island College, teaching first year 3–D Foundation Studio and second year Sculpture and Integrated Practice. With a broad background in visual art, interdisciplinary art and media art practices, Angela has been working in the field of arts and culture, developing independent, collaborative and partnership projects since completing her MFA at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University in 1993. Angela’s areas of research include installation art, site responsive and interactive projects, time-based practices, performance art, print and digital media, hybrid publication and documentation practices.  Angela’s interest in arts-based research practice provides opportunities to deepen conversations between diverse communities through concurrence at the gallery.

Rhonda Burden

Shop Manager

Rhonda Burden and her family moved to the Comox Valley in 1981 and have supported the Comox Valley Art Gallery in various ways ever since. After graduating from Emily Carr University ‘s BFA programme at North Island College, Rhonda became the CVAG Gift Shop Manager in March 2011. Passionate about the “Shop Local” movement, Rhonda especially enjoys working with artists, artisans and customers in a unique retail environment and appreciates the ongoing support and expertise of shop staff and volunteers.

Sue Pyper

Shop Assistant

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Originally from the UK, Sue graduated from Art & Design College in London, and after graduating went on to work for various major London advertising agencies specializing in logo design and branding. Latterly she had a successful career in production management in magazine publishing. Sue immigrated to Canada in 2000 and set up her own successful design company.  Sue is also a fine artist and award winning musician who enjoys getting her “social fix” working in the Gallery gift shop. Sue loves working with customers to help them find the perfect item.

Jessie Zelko

Gallery Assistant

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Jessie Zelko started working at the Comox Valley Art Gallery the summer of 2016. She is currently studying with Emily Carr University at North Island to receive her BFA with a focus on painting and video. While studying at NIC Jessie has curated both the Raven Hall and Satellite Galleries. Along with curating Jessie has also had the opportunity to run North Island College’s 2016 art event.

Cassidy Gehmlich

Gallery Assistant

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Cassidy Gehmlich is a Fine Arts Diploma student at North Island College. She joined the Comox Valley Art Gallery as a Gallery Assistant in the summer of 2016. In her artistic practice, she works in a wide variety of mediums, from painting to leatherworking; from printmaking to assemblage. Originally from Edmonton, Alberta, she finds great pleasure in exploring the beautiful terrain of Vancouver Island.

Denise Lawson

Gallery Assistant

Denise Lawson studied at North Island College Fine Arts Program and received her BFA from Emily Carr University in May 2016. She began her role as curatorial and program assistant at CVAG in October 2016. During her studies Denise curated the Raven Hall and Lewis Centre galleries, volunteered for CVAG, Muir Gallery, NIC Art Events and participated in exhbitions at NIC, Emily Carr University and the local community. At the core of her inter-disciplinary art
practice is the belief that art is integral to the health of society. She is grateful to the BC Arts Council and the Comox Valley Art Gallery for supporting her development as an emerging artist.

Tesla Mayenburg

Gallery Assistant

Tesla Mayenburg has been a Gallery Assistant at the Comox Valley Art Gallery since the fall of 2016. Tesla received her Fine Arts Diploma from North Island College in 2015 and is a semester away from completing her degree through the Emily Carr University External Degree Program. Tesla’s artistic practice is primarily focused in painting and drawing with a special interest in cross-cultural collaboration. Tesla has been involved with the student run Art Events since 2014 and will be curating her first show this spring at North Island College.

Marlee Pestel

Gallery Assistant

Marlee Pestell is a painter and crafter working in many mediums from printmaking to mosaic, pottery and photography. Her artistic practice is greatly influenced by the beauty of British Columbia’s west coast trees, lakes, mountains and ocean views. Upon graduating from Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver with her BFA in Visual Arts, she traveled extensively, learning from artisans around the world. Marlee moved to the Comox Valley in 2014 and became part of the CVAG team December of 2016.

Krista Tupper

Youth Media Project Team Leader

Krista Tupper is an experimental filmmaker, cultural activist and editor with a particular interest in producing media that shifts perspectives on problematic social norms and practises. She has her BFA in Film from SFU and has produced and directed multiple short films that have screened internationally. Part of her activism includes a lifelong commitment to providing access to the production of media to multiple youth from a wide range of backgrounds. She was one of the founding members of the Gulf Island Film and Television School and helped formulate a large part of the curriculum at the school. She was also the Education and Technical Coordinator at VIVO Media Arts and developed media education programs with Out on Screen, the Aboriginal Women’s Network and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, to name a few. Krista enjoys teaching and has worked closely with the Access to Media Education Society and mentored a variety of anti-racism and anti-homophobia videos aimed to end bullying in high schools. Krista has a lifelong passion for connecting youth with media making skills that uniquely positions them to critically engage in contemporary issues and create media that has the potential to shift the way key decision makers and the general public look at community issues or problems.

CVAG Board Members


John Powell

Vice President

David Maclean


Jasmin Badrin

Recording Secretary

Carolyn Kirk-Albert

Board Members

Bruce Curtis

Jason Nemeth

John Heintz

Karver Everson

Linda Perron

Nicole Crouch

Renée Poisson

Roberta Denton

Tom Severson