People of Arts: Deb Pickman

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Marketing and Communications Specialist

Arts and Culture District

Summary of your role:
I empower and inspire audiences through engagement with art.


What is the best advice you received?

To invest in personal development. I was skeptical about the advice at first but after getting value from the first, The Pursuit of Excellence, I wound up taking quite a few of these courses in the 80s and 90s. What I learned changed my life, in no small part by challenging me to articulate what I stand for and what fulfillment in my career and life looks like. One of the core truths I discovered is that no matter how intimidating it may seem to follow your passion, it really is the path of least resistance. Thinking of an elastic band as a metaphor – the further you are away from your dream, the more tension there will be to aid you in achieving resolution to reach your goals. It was shortly after beginning this work that I enrolled at UBC as a mature student in Arts, majoring in Theatre.


What is a secret talent you are really proud of?

I have an 8ft bullwhip made from kangaroo and I know how to use it! Shortly after grad from UBC I had the role of frontierswoman Calamity Jane in a one-woman play my new company, shameless hussy productions, commissioned. I was taught Australian bullwhip and gun tricks by one of the best stunt men in the business, Alex Green. He subsequently taught whip work to Sir Anthony Hopkins for The Mask of Zorro and Alex was his principal stunt double for many years. Fun fact: The tip of a bullwhip is thought to be the first human-made object to break the sound barrier, the “crack” of the whip is actually a small sonic boom. To break the sound barrier your bullwhip must exceed about 770 mph. Interested to learn a circus crack and a few tricks? I wouldn’t mind!


What is your fondest memory at UBC?

So many as a student! But professionally it was being hired as the first full-time Marketing & Communications Manager for the Department of Theatre & Film 17 years ago, prior to my current position which I’ve held for 7. In the decade after graduation, I had discovered another huge passion – aside from creating theatre which advanced social justice by telling women’s stories with shameless hussy. A parallel career had drawn me into arts promotions with a missionary zeal to help audiences discover the power of the arts. It was so incredibly meaningful to be hired to come back to represent this place and its students, a place where I had risked and learned so much, where I’d made so many deep discoveries and friendships.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I’m excited to announce our 7th annual kids art festival KIDS TAKE OVER UBC is back in person on Sunday, Feb 19 from 11am to 5pm this Family Day Weekend.

Hosted by UTown@UBC and UBC Arts & Culture District, Kids Take Over UBC brings together 23 Campus Partners to offer 24+ family-friendly activities in 12 different venues across the campus. There’s something for everyone!

Attend the event