What YOUth said: Insights from the Arts in Action Dialogue

Thank you for all of those who came out to the Arts in Action dialogue. It truly was a fun and inspiring day! Here are some of the highlights from the comments and insights gained through the World Cafe Discussion questions, which tackled the different angles of the relationship between art and discrimination, and how we may use art to create diverse and inclusive communities. Please share your comments and thoughts below!

As a lot of art sells for thousands of dollars at exclusive events and shows, how can public spaces in Vancouver be used to make art more accessible?

It just so happened that for this question we focused on visual art. This question allowed for some venting about how the high cost of art supplies and studio space makes it inaccessible to many students and youth. There was a consensus that we would like to see progressive policies from Government at different levels supporting the arts. The group soon delved deeper into the roots of this issue and asked the question: “what is the motive for creating art?” Is it fame or wealth? The money-centric, class-differenciated reality of our present day society has made art a luxury that can mostly be afforded by a rich elite. This often creates a dilemma for artists who rely on this exclusive culture to sell their work. Finally, there needs to be a balance between artists making a living while not being motivated by money in such a way that they would make their art inaccessible to those without the material means. The group then began to question whom are considered artists and decided that the production of art should not be exclusive to those who are professional artists. As one participant put it: “Art should be more like exercise – everyone should do it.” Finally, it was clear that appropriate public spaces need to be selected for sharing art in a way that will encourage connection and community, and that a general public education is needed in order to appreciate art in public spaces.

How can art be used to promote cultural diversity in Vancouver and share stories of ethnic identity and experience?

The availability of different kinds of food and dance already reflect a great deal of cultural diversity in Vancouver. However, it’s very important that we fall not into the exoticism of different cultures as commercial tokens of art. The group then asked, “what is multiculturalism? Is it just co-habitating?” Everyone agreed that we need to be more inter-cultural and that participatory art is a great way to interact with stories of ethnic diversity. Stories and experiences that deal with particular cultural issues also need to be communicated in a form for all to understand. Some participants proposed looking at cultural diversity more holistically and asked “What are the strengths in each culture that we can nurture to be more inclusive with other cultures?” Innovative and creative ways to use existing space can promote more cultural diversity, such as the opening of artists’ studios and homes during the East Vancouver Culture Crawl.

How can creative activism be used as a tool to create inter-generational collaboration in re-shaping communities? 

Change is definitely easier through collaboration. However, we encounter a few obstacles to intergenerational collaboration including lack of openness to youthful knowledge, stereotypes that older people are ignorant or do not care and youth’s capabilities are underestimated, as well as a glorification of youth culture within the the younger generation. To overcome these barriers we need to accept and be open to the idea that conflict may arise from collaboration, and most importantly, love is needed. Experiences change over time so it can be hard to relate if we do not create intergenerational spaces for mentorship and sharing knowledge. Someone brought up an excellent point about how the “youth spirit” moves through generations and how we need to understand how this spirit of creative activism moves. Moreover, we should be careful with language that divides generations such as “youth are the next generation.” Instead we can focus on the unlimited potential of people of all ages and their necessary involvement for change.

Most well known and successful artists are cis-men; how can Vancouver promote and support artists of other genders? 

For those not familiar with the term, someone who is cis-gendered has a gender identity that agrees with their socially recognized sex. It was discussed that our preference of artists depends on our background and values. But do we reward what is popular? Should this change? Some said that the media should popularized female artists and those who fund the media should be connected to youth to think about the benefits of diversity rather than profit. Perhaps one reason that there is gender inequality in the popularity of artists is that art requires resources including money and supplies, and women face poverty more than men so they are less able to pursue art. Finally, gender inequality in politics, activism, media all have to be addressed before anything changes in the art.

Stay tuned for ArtQuake’s next Community Arts Dialogue to join the conversation!

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