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Woman to Watch: Anne Denman

"We all have that sense of wanting to create something and appreciate the aesthetic. It’s why we work." — Anne Denman
Anne Denman

Well before she became executive director of the Okanagan International Festival of Animation, Anne Denman was learning about the arts from her father, a Vancouver Symphony Orchestra musician. Growing up in an artistic household gave Denman the opportunity to explore a variety of art forms, but it’s film that would ultimately grip her heart.

After working in live action film for several years, Denman entered the animation field at the age of 26. Her work with International Rocketship and the Vancouver Film School would propel her to the international stage and open the door to film festival planning, which she gladly embraced.

“I was headhunted by the organizer of the Cardiff International Animation Festival to assist with an animation festival in Portland,” Denman said.

“It was a wonderful experience. I worked with Irene Kotlarz, who is the personification of integrity in art.”

Decades later, Denman would take on a variety of roles in human resources and recruitment for media and entertainment companies before becoming the managing director of Bardel Entertainment—all experiences that would prepare her for her current project, the inaugural Okanagan International Festival of Animation.

While Denman is tight-lipped about the festival itself, she’s proud to be working with some of the business and animation community’s most respected leaders.

“We have a great board of directors,” she said. “Our chair and artistic director, Danny Antonucci, is best known for creating Cartoon Network’s Ed, Edd n Eddy. There’s Corrie Griffiths, who is a powerhouse in this community. We also have Ashley Ramsay from Yeti Farm, who is a force to be reckoned with, plus some big international players like Rachelle Lewis. She did recruitment for Rugrats and The Simpsons.”

Denman’s love of animation and art has spurred her to act as a mentor for Kelowna’s up-and-coming young artists, and she’s happy to be part of the support network that helps artists to succeed. After two years of Okanagan road trips, Denman has seen what the Okanagan Valley has to offer young artists, and she’s eager to entice artists to embrace the Okanagan lifestyle.

The end goal? Encouraging more arts students to become working artists. “Creatives are the archivists of our society. That’s why I want to bring the working artist’s perspective to arts education. (It takes a network of people) to support these artists and their big visions.”

In service of that mission, Denman serves on arts advisory boards for Sheridan College, Okanagan College, and the UBC Okanagan Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies.

But supporting students in pursuing the arts is just the start for Denman, who is on a mission to unleash the transformative and healing power of art in the Okanagan.

“I think it’s important that we break down boundaries and connect as people. That’s why my next non-profit will work on helping people who are trying to get off the streets—and it’ll do that through art.”

For Denman, it’s all about the power of creativity to transform others’ perspectives and connect on a deeper level.

She says that life is about passion, about satisfying the innate human drive to create, and about connecting with others.

“We all have that sense of wanting to create something and appreciate the aesthetic. It’s why we work. As Carl Jung said, art is a nonverbal language. We all want to connect in some way. Art and culture makes you a critical thinker, so you don’t just follow. It makes you question. That’s what I want to be a part of.”

Denman acknowledges that a career in art isn’t an easy one — it takes several years of hard work to earn a living as an artist — but she says that working artists are ideally positioned to re-shape the world.

“If money is your priority, well, there are much easier ways to make money. Art is all about passion. I went with the career that made me feel in my element and helped me make a difference. That’s what I hope to promote and support for all artists.”

Denman notes that the animation industry is facing a talent shortage, and that the industry needs more passionate and creative people to continue doing great work. “Art and animation is the golden gig. Every Thursday afternoon, I keep my schedule open so artists can come in and ask questions, and I just listen and give them what I can. People ask me why I do this. And I say, ‘It’s what we’re here to do.’ What’s more important?”


Crowe MacKay’s Women to Watch program is a weekly feature that profiles remarkable women in our community, concluding October 15. After terrific response, the nomination period for 2016 is now closed. Watch this space each week to see our remaining Women to Watch.