Vancouver arts community gets a nod and some cash
// Katherine Alpen

Prepare yourself for something so shocking that you might want to put down your Timmy’s coffee for a second. Are you ready? Our city council is supporting the arts. As unlikely as it may seem, it’s the truth: on Oct. 6 at the Mayor’s Arts Awards, our very own Mayor Gregor Robertson was up on the podium supporting arts throughout the city, proving that even if support on a federal level is hard to find, the mayor’s office will still work hard to recognize those that contribute to Vancouver’s growing cultural reputation, or as Mr. Robertson called it, “the cultural capital of Canada.”

There is a catch, however. Supporting is very different than funding, and all of BC, including the city of Vancouver, has a long way to go. Last year, Lindsay Brown of the organization Stop BC Arts Cuts told, “BC invests about $6.50 per capita, which not only makes us last in Canada, it makes us last by a disgraceful margin.” Compared to the national average of $26 per capita, this number does seem remarkably low. In 2009, CBC news reported that BC suffered cuts of $20 million dollars, after being assured by the Liberal Government that all was business as usual for their yearly budget.

Still, there have been some successful improvements. The city offers subsidized art spaces to a limited number of artists each year for a tenancy of four years. A secondary result of the Mayor’s Arts Awards is that all honourees chosen by the city have an opportunity to give an award of $2500 to an emerging artist of their choice. The honourees themselves receive the same amount. Peanuts, it might be said, when looking at the big picture, but it is a move in the right direction.

In this case, the responsibility comes down to the population of Vancouver to support its own by seeing plays, buying art, taking dance classes, and buying locally made garments. After all, we have the highest number of artists living here per capita than any other city in Canada.

Listed here are just a few of the artists that were recognized this year for being, as Mr. Robertson put it, “the leaders, and the people that go above and beyond.”

Barbara Cole: Public Art

If you’ve seen art in public places in Vancouver, Barbara Cole has probably been somehow involved. In her acceptance speech, she mentioned that public art really isn’t about the glorification of a single person, but more so that of a group. Though she spends most of her time getting permission to exhibit her art, she is tireless in her attack of the public’s psyche. As the founder and executive director of Other Sights for Artists’ Projects, she has her hands full in an effort to “consider the aesthetic, economic, and regulatory conditions of public places and public life.” With a new generation of street art based in graffiti on the rise, public art pieces are becoming more expected, accepted and integral to public life.

Naomi Singer: Community Engaged Art

Naomi Singer is the woman behind the annual Winter Solstice Lantern Festival. Bringing people together on the darkest day of the year seems to resonate with the community. The event has been going on for 18 years, attracting people of different cultures, nationalities and talents. Singer gave a humble, heartfelt thanks to the city, mayor, and community for supporting what she has always done simply because she is good at it.

Barbara Bouget: Dance

Barbara Bouget is a force in and of her own right. To name a few of her accomplishments, she has choreographed over 150 dance pieces, danced for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Paula Ross Dance Company, and is the co-producer of the International Dance Festival. As she accepted her award she had this to say: “I don’t want to sound cheesy, but I’m going to. I live to dance, and I dance to live, and thank you to everyone who has made sacrifices to help me get where I am.” She is currently working in the city with the SFU dance program.

Christopher Gaze: Theatre

Christopher Gaze is the artistic director and founder of the Bard on the Beach. Born in England, he moved to Vancouver in 1983, and was inspired by the tradition of outdoor Shakespeare productions to create a festival that used Vancouver’s scenery to its advantage. He has previously been recognized for his contributions in multiple ways, including induction into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame, being given the BC Community Achievement Award, and given honourary doctorates from SFU and UBC, as stated in his Bard on the Beach biography. In his acceptance of the award, he praised boldness in the arts and asked everyone start something: “Whatever it is in you to begin, begin it now.”

Roy Sumpter: Volunteerism

Roy Sumpter started volunteering 20 years ago, and hasn’t slowed down a bit. Even at 80, he participates in 50 organizations a year, including the Fringe Festival and the East Vancouver Cultural Centre’s year round events. Roy’s outlook is as follows: “Volunteers are unpaid not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.” Nothing could be truer when considering cash is often in short supply for arts events everywhere.

“A city is a conversation, and art is one way of keeping that conversation flowing,” as Bill Richardson, host of the events, summed it up. Hopefully, this conversation will lead to more support for the arts in the future. In the meantime, Vancouver’s public can develop their community by participating in the arts whenever possible. If all goes well, Vancouver will never shut up.

// Katherine Alpen, Writer

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