To everyone upset about The Vancouver Playhouse, The Ridge, Book Warehouse, and all of the other culture that is evaporating in Vancouver:

To everyone upset about The Vancouver Playhouse, The Ridge, Book Warehouse, and all of the other culture that is evaporating in Vancouver:

I agree that Vancouver has a long way to come in developing a system that supports cultural endeavours. It would be great if The City or The Government or other Institutions could sweep in and save everything. But what can we do about it? How can we work together to create a sustainable artistic community?

Recent history and research about cultural non-profits has suggested that previous models of aiming for continued growth and reliance on granting bodies (often at the expense of depth, meaning, and lasting intellectual relevance) may have created a bunch of giant Jenga towers on top of a rug that can be pulled out from under them at any time. More and more cultural non-profits are realizing that it is about creating and mining niche markets, not creating cultural monoliths.

In Vancouver (and elsewhere), these institutions are falling—often in part because of funding cuts. However, at least from where I’m standing, small but vibrant arts and cultural communities are abundant (I’m tempted to say “flourishing,” but, really, financially I don’t think they are flourishing. They’re facing the same challenges everyone else is).

But we can’t ignore the culture in Vancouver of not wanting to pay for things. All of the arts and culture in this city costs something—whether grants pay for it, or fundraising, or money directly out of the pockets of the people who work and/or volunteer for these projects.

Regardless of what’s happening with funding, we need to develop a culture where audiences are eager to pay for things. For subscriptions, for tickets, for memberships, for events. We have ended up with a culture of wanting to consume arts and culture but not always wanting to pay for it, but then we are upset when it all starts falling apart because there is not enough money to support it. How can we rally for The City or The Government to find the funds to sustain these projects when we’ve rarely opened our own wallets to do the same?

I encourage each of you to look at your own participation in these situations. You know that theatre you love? Buy a subscription to their season, encourage your friends to do it with you or even buy them their first ticket. Go to more individual shows if you can’t commit the time or funds to a subscription. That magazine you love to read? Subscribe to it. Buy a second subscription for your friend who would also love it. That art gallery you love to visit? Become a member. Find out when their next fundraiser is and be there. At their art auction buy a fantastic piece of art for a ridiculously low cost compared to what the work is and what it is worth. That book you’ve been meaning to buy, the one you can’t find on Amazon or at Chapters? Go to one of the independent shops that carry it and buy it. That music group you love to listen to/see perform? Buy a subscription to their season, buy their CD, go to their concerts, go to their fundraisers. Go to an independent record shop to buy their work on vinyl.

I know, you’re probably a creative too in this expensive city. You probably don’t have the money to spend on these things as a result. But what would it look like if you made room in your budget for arts and culture? If you really look, there are often things worth sacrificing (coffee out, food out, drinks out, cabs, etc.). And if I’m wrong, if you really can’t afford to do this, can you afford to volunteer some time? No? Well, then, are you able to support these organizations by simply helping to promote their efforts on your blog, your social media, via word of mouth?

It’s easy to demonize The City and Developers. And, I’m sure there is a very complex and logical reason for why doing so is not a bad idea. However, in the long run, what will create a more vibrant, sustainable arts and culture community? I imagine that even if we pull together our modest disposable incomes, volunteer power and word of mouth we still might not be able to create ongoing support for big organizations like The Playhouse. But if we each become ambassadors for the projects closest to our hearts, we can likely sustain a number of smaller organizations doing extremely meaningful and innovative things.

 

Photo by Bronte Taylor

Stanley Park is part of MY past, too

Today a Facebook friend posted an article, “Stanley Park is part of our past, too,” published today in the Vancouver Sun and written by someone who somehow didn’t have the nerve to include a byline (or an obvious one, if it’s there somewhere).

This article really struck me. And yes, I’m oversensitive and generally avoid newspapers because of this quality, but this made me equally sad and angry and made me want to say “Fuck you” to the writer. Fuck you for being such an ignorant, insensitive asshole. Fuck you for not having the courage to put your name on this. Fuck you for speaking for me. Fuck you for making me not only look bad, but feel badly about something that I don’t even agree with. (And fuck you for eliciting a childish stream of fuck yous from me, which I am openly sharing with the world under my real name.)

I’m not an expert on aboriginal issues or an activist or even that knowledgeable about the Coast Salish who originally lived off of our land. But I recognize that this lack of knowledge is something that I should not only be aware of but should also be ashamed of. I also recognize that differences between western concepts of “knowledge” and “learning” and aboriginal concepts of “knowledge” and “learning” present barriers for me — a non-aboriginal — to know and learn more about Coast Salish culture and history. Depending on who you talk to, it may or may not be my business (and I respect whichever opinion).

Not only have I lived my whole life in Vancouver, my ancestors at least as far back as my mother’s great grandfather also have, and on this side of the family I am 12th generation Canadian. This means that I, in particular, have something at stake in the argument being made in this article.

My grandma has told me stories about going on dates with my grandfather to Stanley Park. When I go there I imagine them there, young and in love and looking out at the same ocean that I am also mesmerized by. Stanley Park is also a part of my history.

However, this does not mean that I have a right to completely disregard the attack on aboriginal culture that was probably instigated by my very own ancestors. It doesn’t mean that I have a right to dictate what constitutes acknowledging the past. It doesn’t mean that I get to say what is or isn’t a true representation of aboriginal culture in Stanley Park (I haven’t looked into this, but the questions I would ask would be: (1) Was the aboriginal community involved in putting in the aboriginal components of the park? (2) Do they feel it represents them? (3) Do they think it is enough? (4) Do they feel acknowledged?). And, yes, I was just theying, which is a danger in itself and part of the problem and complexity of the issue.

Maybe the writer’s point was that it is time to shift to a we mentality. However, this is what he or she says:

Canada’s history has many narratives. The first nations say their story dates back 10,000 years. Europeans arrived here just 500 years ago. Neither narrative is more valid than the other.

So is the argument: Neither is more valid than the other so let’s just completely disregard the first nations’ story because Europeans are here now? Let’s claim their language is impossible to pronounce and therefore clearly not marketable!

Yes, we need to shift to a we mentality. However, this is extremely complex and requires a lot more respect and acknowledgment and participation from the aboriginal community. The entire argument is actually a rally for completely disregarding aboriginal culture (by simply posting up a plaque to “solve the problem that first nations were here first”), under the guise that this is creating a unified culture.

We don’t yet know what a unified, we culture looks like. The closest we’ve come is the current, still very white-patriarchal version of multi-culturalism. Admit that this is complex. That there is no easy solution. That — heck — this might even be too idealistic.

But please, don’t be so blind as to think (and so stupid as to say — in a PUBLIC, WIDELY DISTRIBUTED NEWSPAPER) that by supporting the status quo you are somehow supporting cultural inclusivity.

This newspaper article is not only a joke, but it is also only one perspective. My blog post is also only my perspective. Please consider that each individual — whether they identify as aboriginal or Canadian or whatever — has a completely different perspective, experience, and belief system and don’t let any of these stories speak for an entire group of people. This may be the first step in moving from they to we.

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PS To the ladies of Hello. I miss you., sorry for turning “Wordless Wednesday” into “RANT Wednesday.”

This is where I’ve been all these months (but I have no idea how I got here)

Wolos knocked my planter of swiss chard and snap dragons off the balcony railing again today. A spray of brown dirt around a mass of damp black earth, green bits poking out as if to say Hey! I’m still alive! Don’t bury me!

Wolos is the nickname we’ve taken to calling stella bella, our one-year-old cat who has taken to hanging out on our back porch staring at the array of small- and medium-sized birds that flit onto the nearby telephone wires.

As she gawks at them, her lower lip chatters and some instinctive screech she doesn’t ever make in any other situation flutters from her throat. Sometimes I catch her sitting on the balcony railing, poised as if she’s about to jump onto one of the flimsy hedge trees in an attempt to reach the birds.

Down,Wolos, down, I say in a calm-but-stern tone. Usually she jumps down. Or she erupts in that strange chatter as if to say But I can’t help it, please, let me catch one before I carefully lift her off, deposit her on the ground, and say, Down Wolos, good girl Wolos.

I’ve become one of those people who seems to always be talking about their cat.

Or about Norky, a rescued pug we recently acquired whose real name is Penelope.

I’ve also become one of those people who “we”s.

As I write this, Wolos is sprawled out next to me.  She sleeps silently but for a Mew she lets out, without moving or even opening her eyes, when I reach over to play with her extremely soft pooch of a belly.

Norky is on the floor, face-down and snoring like a bear.

Jaz is in the next room, “the office,” sighing as he works on wrapping up his day.

Our bay window looks out onto greenery and the top floor of the character home across the street. Our back porch faces a blue-red-and-yellow auto shop, and above that, the North Shore Mountains.

From the corner two houses down you can see the ocean, Hastings Street, the first synagogue ever built in Vancouver, a church spire, a tower with the Scotia Bank logo, the edge of McLean Park, and, sometimes, women selling sex.

This evening I re-potted the swiss chard and the snapdragons for the second time. As I plucked each plant from the spilled soil, careful not to harm their roots, I marveled how, other than a film of brown powder, the plants and flowers remained in tact despite their (second) fall.

I looked down at my palms, dusted with earth, and wondered how the hell I got here.

Now, writing, I reach over to give Wolos another pat but she’s not there anymore. Norky’s gone too — out for a walk with Jaz. The house is quiet, the room lit by a lamp. In the stillness I can finally let go of the to-do-lists, anxiety, and go-go-go of my day. The chaos that is my life sits as starkly as the overturned flowerpot. My sense of self, though poking through in a few places, is almost completely hidden beneath dirt.

I can’t see them now, but somehow I know the roots are still in tact. Hey! I’m still alive! Don’t bury me!