Shayd Johnson is the recipient of the Emerging Cultural Leader Award from the City of Nanaimo.

Shayd Johnson is the recipient of the Emerging Cultural Leader Award from the City of Nanaimo.

Johnson saw growth potential within Nanaimo’s cultural sector

NANAIMO – Shayd Johnson is honoured with the city's first ever Emerging Cultural Leader Award.

The City of Nanaimo has honoured one of its outstanding residents. Shayd Johnson has received the city’s first-ever Emerging Cultural Leader Award.

He will be honoured on Wednesday (March 12) at the Nanaimo Cultural Awards celebration, which is being held at the Port Theatre.

The award came as a complete surprise to Johnson.

“I was shocked to be quite honest,” Johnson said. “It is quite an honour to be the first recipient of this award firstly, but also to be recognized for the different variety of things that I do in the community.”

Johnson is the co-founder of Elephant Room Creative, a Nanaimo-based multi-media firm. He also co-founded the Green Light Project, which aimed to create awareness for low-barrier housing.

“It’s great. I am really excited to have some members of the community with me and my family,” Johnson said of the awards ceremony.

Although he and his business partner looked at other markets, the Harbour City became an ideal location to launch Elephant Room Creative.

“We decided together that Nanaimo was a great place to start our creative design company based on the fact that it had a lot of growth potential,” Johnson said. “I was looking around and seeing the improvements going on with the downtown business association and I started digging into the business community and saw an opportunity for a creative company like ours to have some success.”

Since launching a few years ago, Elephant Room Creative hired plenty of Vancouver Island University graduates.

“Nanaimo is the perfect ground for a startup tech-based community,” Johnson said. “What that means to me is there are other communities like Boulder, Colo., and Portland, Ore., – those communities are similar in terms of a larger population but they incubate these start-up companies.”

He suggested that Nanaimo has the potential to create a creative tech centre like the ones in larger markets such as Portland.

“Nanaimo has the ocean, it has the resources, it has a great infrastructure, it is a safe community and it has some creative spaces that aren’t really being used to their full advantage.”

Some of Nanaimo’s advantages over larger markets include a lower cost of living and close proximity to major urban centres, according to Johnson.

“In Vancouver there are so many [tech startups]. It’s over saturated and it’s expensive,” Johnson said. “Nanaimo’s a great place because it’s a lot cheaper. It’s even cheaper to live and work here and hop on a float plane over to Vancouver if you need to, than it is to live in Vancouver.”

Receiving the city’s first ever Emerging Cultural Leader Award has given Johnson additional motivation.

“It gave me even more motivation to continue what I am doing,” he said. “Obviously being recognized enhances my motivation to build a vibrant arts and culture community and to keep inspiring other creative people to step forward and help and create a scene in Nanaimo.”

In addition to the award for Johnson, the City of Nanaimo is also recognizing the work of Ian Niamath, Pat Coleman, the Gogo family and Shayd Johnson at Wednesday’s (March 12) award ceremony at the Port Theatre. The event is free, beginning at 7 p.m. Please see Thursday’s News Bulletin for more profiles on the cultural award winners.