Fostering connection through art and culture

In the 18th century, salons allowed individuals to come together and discuss ideas. Salimah Ebrahim will be speaking about her work as a journalist and her start-up Artery at Vancouver Playhouse Theatre’s next Public Salon on June 7.

The idea is for people to connect to the real culture of a place and use Artery as a tool of discovery to meet people,” says Ebrahim.

These Public Salons originated from dinners hosted by Sam Sullivan and Lynn Zanatta and they are now forums for public discussion.

A platform for connection

Through hosting dinners for her friends and sharing stories about their lives, Ebrahim concluded that art and culture was the most powerful way for individuals to see each other and connect.

“This idea of connecting through co-creativity is a big idea,” says Ebrahim.

An Artery showcase in the works. | Photo courtesy of Salimah Ebrahim

As a result of these ideas, Artery was born last year and co-founded with fellow journalist Vladic Ravich as a web and mobile platform. Artery allows people to create pop-up performances in private spaces and allows individuals to host these performances by lending their spaces.

“I’m a person who likes to be on the street and be in people’s homes and walking in cities,” says Ebrahim.

These spaces could vary from rooftops to backyards or living rooms. The host and performer will agree on a date and price, then other Artery users will be able to find the event and pre-pay to get the address.

Artery was started as a pilot in Toronto last year and has now expanded into New York. Ebrahim says even people who don’t think of themselves as creators will be able to access spaces and an audience easily.

Dream career from young age

Ebrahim was born in Kenya, but her family was originally from East Africa. She immigrated to Vancouver in the 1980s when she was five-years-old. From a very young age, Ebrahim already knew she wanted to be a journalist.

Grant Park, Chicago on November 4, 2008 – covering election day and Barack Obama’s historic win. | Photo courtesy of Salimah Ebrahim

She recounts how she used to interview family members in home videos and how she was always surrounded by stories from them.

“I realized there were people that got to explore the world and learn about other cultures, and to me that seemed like the greatest job in the world,” says Ebrahim.

After studying Middle East history at university, Ebrahim moved to Egypt and landed her first job as a journalist for the Cairo Times. Through her work, she also traveled to Jordan, Damascus, Jerusalem and Baghdad.

In 2008, she began her foray into US politics by covering Barack Obama’s journey on the campaign trail all the way to inauguration day. Ebrahim eventually landed a job as a White House correspondent with Reuters. However, she realized it wasn’t the dream job she thought it would be.

“I felt that we didn’t know who an Iraqi or Syrian was and they didn’t know who we were either,” says Ebrahim.

She began contemplating the challenges of human connection and identity.

“I took a pause from journalism to think about how we can solve that and allow people to see each other as humans,” says Ebrahim.

She hopes that Artery will be able to foster social connection and intimacy. Typically, there are about 15–25 people attending a showcase.

For the next Public Salon, Ebrahim will be spending seven to ten minutes discussing her work as a journalist and how Artery came to be.

“I’m excited to share the idea of what we’re building,” says Ebrahim.

Ebrahim plans on expanding Artery to 150 cities in the next two years. There is currently about one showcase happening per day.

“This is something I feel passionate about and it comes back to why I wanted to be a journalist,” says Ebrahim. “To allow people to connect and see each other as humans.”

For more information about Artery, please visit

www.artery.is.

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