Saskatoon, Treaty 6: Emily Kohlert

photo credit: Emily Kohlert

photo credit: Emily Kohlert

(Intro by Reilly Forbes)

Emily is a living counterpoint to the misguided idea of millennial laziness. She is a graphic designer, a musician, a photographer, a radio host, a snappy dresser and a great person to have a beer with. Her computer savviness is the envy of all artists born before 1985. Seeing her work reminds me of the song “Losing My Edge”. Introducing Emily Kohlert…


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KC: What kinds of projects are you involved in right now?

I had the opportunity to work at PAVED Arts over the summer as the gallery assistant. I ended up mostly doing graphic design and am now working part-time through my last school year of my Bachelor of Fine Arts. We just launched an exciting project that has taken months of work, called Art Passport YXE. It’s an initiative to encourage visiting Saskatoon’s many galleries and art spaces, and personally I feel it will play a grand part in adding to the strength of our art community. It’s free to take part in, and you can find all of the information to get involved at Technical Director Reilly Forbes dreamed up the project, and I had the pleasure of building the site, making the explainer video and soundtrack, and also designing the passport book itself. Basically, it poses the challenge to visit the 15 participating gallery spaces and collect unique stamps from each space by the end of May. There will be rewards TBA that come with a completed book, as well as events connected to the project over the coming months. In addition to Art Passport YXE, I designed the template for our “Toon’s on Transit” project, which showcased photographs submitted by Saskatoon photographers, professional or amateur, on city busses and created a mobile gallery. I also created “The Wallpaper Project, which is a free phone and desktop wallpaper source you can find at I hope to continue this ongoing project with some fresh wallpapers to keep your devices looking fine.

I’m finishing up the last two classes of my Bachelor of Fine Arts this year, and have started work on my BFA show approaching in April. I will be spending most of my time in the printmaking studio screen printing and in the darkroom making photographic prints, as well as continuing my freelance design work under the name DANDY LION. My BFA exhibition will be a collection of screen prints and photographs. A project I’m working on that may end up being used for my show is my “badass girl gang”, as I like to call it. I’ve been photographing studio portraits of Saskatoon beauties; women who I think captivate the strength in femininity. I’m using the photographs as reference photos, and then digitally drawing and screen printing the illustrative portraits.

This year has also brought a new opportunity to work for the university in creating a “Safer Printmaking” website to educate and share information about environmentally friendly, safe materials and methods for printmakers everywhere.

KC: What’s your day job? What do you like about it? What’s challenging?

As I mentioned before, my day job is working as the Visual Communications & Outreach Coordinator at PAVED Arts. It has been a fantastic experience to work in the field of my passion, and I feel very fortunate to have such an opportunity. The staff is a joy to work with, and I feel proud of the things I’ve learned and accomplished so far at this non-profit artist-run centre. I love being able to contribute to the growth of this organization, have freedom with my design work, helping launch and run projects, and spend time developing my skills. For anyone who is not familiar with PAVED Arts, we focus on Photography, Audio, Video, Electronic, and Digital media. In addition to our gallery, we offer many resources for working artists in our Production Centre. The Production Centre has incredible gear for rental, as well as photographic, audio, and video editing suites at very affordable pricing. We also host a variety of events in our Event Space, including film screenings, workshops, and the upcoming Vampire Beat Halloween party. Our Equipment Manager, Devin McAdam, and Technical Coordinator, Reilly Forbes, are also available to educate members about the gear and have a huge knowledge base that contributes greatly to the strength and awesomeness of PAVED Arts.

The main challenges of this job have been learning programs, figuring out how to execute projects the best way possible, coming up with solutions to technical problems, organization and deadlines, and the responsibility to schedule school tours and other programming. The challenges are motivating, though, and most are just things I’m new to. I’ve learned so much since being here, and I couldn’t be more proud and honoured to be part of the PAVED Arts team.

KC: What’s important to you?

Art, music, growth, community, and passion are all very important to me. I grew up in a family of music and art, and have learned that hard work and a positive attitude go a long way. I challenge myself to constantly be working on something and learning, and I’ve realized that the only person who can get you to where you want to be is yourself, through motivation and hard work. People fascinate me, and are often the subjects of my work. I like meeting new people and am inspired daily by the growth and talent in our art and music communities. My great love of music is showcased in the radio show I host on CFCR 90.5fm Community Radio on Monday nights (called Learn to Sing), and I find that CFCR is a great way to stay connected to what is going on in the city, especially in arts, music, and culture. My environment is very important to my work ethic, so living in Nutana is a great fit for my practice.

KC: What do you like most/least about Saskatoon?

Originally, I only moved to Saskatoon to escape my small hometown after not getting into art school in Vancouver when I was 18. At first I felt bitter about living here, though I’ll admit was exciting to be in a new place. Over time, though, my love for Saskatoon has grown tremendously, and I realized that even if I had gotten into art school, I wasn’t ready at the time. It’s my fifth year living here, and a couple years ago I started to take advantage of more opportunities that the city has to offer. I worked very hard in my studio classes, and got to know a strong base of fantastic, talented, kind people who are in bands and practice art in the city. It has been extremely encouraging and motivating for me. I love going to shows at Amigos, knowing that I can just show up and will see many friends, fellow musicians, and artists in our community. I feel now, more than ever, our artistic and music scenes are weaved very tightly, and I feel very proud to live here and be a part of it. I like the collaborations that are happening with musicians and artists, the constant cycle of local merch production and shows, the music and art festivals happening every year (MoSoFest, Sounds Like Audio Art Festival, Street Meet, JazzFest, etc!), and knowing that it is very possible to make projects happen, often with the kind support and help of other artists in the community.

The best pizza in town is easily Swan Pizza, and my favourite noodle bowl is at Thien Vietnam. The Yard & Flagon on Broadway is my favourite watering hole, and I love going there to do graphic design work and chat with the wonderful staff, who many of which are artists, actors, and musicians.

The only negative things I have to say about Saskatoon at the moment are that I wish we could develop a better, more reliable transit system, and also have many more bike lanes and an emphasis on their importance. In the winter, it is really taxing to stand outside waiting for a bus for 20 or 30 minutes, sometimes not knowing if you actually missed it or if it’s late. Even if the transit system could install some kind of GPS or tracker so that we could see in real time where the busses are at any given moment with the use of our phones, I think it would go a long way. I’m guilty of driving, but I find it quite difficult to get around without a car. With the improvement of transit, I would love to make it my main mode of transportation. I would really like to see Saskatoon change from a driving city to more of a transit/cycling one.

KC: What is your impression of Regina?

I haven’t been to Regina in a long while, but as far as I know things are quite happening there. There have been some really talented musicians coming out of Regina who are making huge strides in the national and international music scene, like Andy Shauf who was recently signed to Arts & Crafts, and Rah Rah who have many impressive accomplishments and awards/nominations under their belts. There have also been some interesting collaborations between audio/video artists and musicians from both Regina and Saskatoon, and I’ve heard really great things about their university art program. I used to drive to Regina a lot as a teenager, to see shows at The Exchange and eat at 13th Avenue Coffee House.

KC: How do you survive the winters?

Red wine and boozey coffee, thick wooly socks and cozy sweaters, and trying to stay indoors as much as humanly possible.

KC: (From Proust Questionaire) What is your most treasured possession?

My most treasured possession is my Minolta SRT-101 film camera that my father gave me. It was originally his camera, and in his 20’s he documented life and many concerts in the 1970’s and 80’s. It was given to me about 8 years ago, and was the reason I got into photography. When I was a teenager with a grocery store job and nothing to spend my money on, I started pouring all of my time and money into shooting film. It hardly ever left my side, and I’d often develop 2-3 rolls of film a week. The photography program at my high school in Yorkton was exceptional, all owed to the very hard work, fundraising efforts, and passion of Chad McDowell. The three-year program equipped me with an extremely well rounded grasp on basic fundamentals, technical knowledge, darkroom techniques, and studio practice.

What is your motto?

Trust yourself, trust your skills.