REVOLUTION: re-branding artistic practices

Sudnya Mulye. | Photo by Brendan Lally

The B.C. Alliance for Arts + Culture is hosting their annual conference, REVOLUTION: Engaging Human Creativity, on June 8. With a variety of speakers, panels and workshops, REVOLUTION will explore how the arts can be used to create connections and a better society.

Brenda Leadlay | Photo by Andrew Alexander

Through REVOLUTION, the Alliance hopes to help shift how we as a community view art and how both society and the arts community need to evolve.

“We want people to understand that artists aren’t a special interests group,” says Brenda Leadlay, the Executive Director of the Alliance. “Every human is a creative being. We’re trying to rebrand what arts and culture is, to get people to think about them differently.”

Need for change

Nina Buddhdev | Photo courtesy of BC Alliance for Arts + Culture

One of the biggest challenges the arts face is that some people tend to see them as foreign practices, something that they have no ability in. Leadlay believes that one of the causes is our education; when she was in school, her class was simply given a picture and told to draw in between the lines as an art project.

“I think the whole idea of art is individual expressions,” says Leadlay. “If you’re schooled in a way that says there’s a ‘right’ way of doing things, that’s very simplistic and can have a negative effect.”

Another obstacle facing the artistic community is that much of the art we interact with every day can be taken for granted. So many pieces of our daily lives, from books to video games, came from creative thinking. Seeing the arts as something essential and for everyone is what the Alliance is trying to bring to B.C.

“REVOLUTION is about engaging people,” says Leadlay. “Change is so important yet we get stuck in the same ruts over and over again. We need to work to be more inclusive.”

Opening the public eye

One of the panels at REVOLUTION is titled Cultural Diversity in Artistic Practice, which will be a critical discussion on how cultural events are held and supported across the province. The talk will be moderated by Nina Buddhdev, who worked with the Asian Music Circuit and developed the South Asian heritage program while living in London. After moving to B.C., she realized that many artists here are culturally alienated and she has been working to bring them into the public eye.

“In B.C., we have a lot of marginalized groups,” says Buddhdev. “There are few funds available, which excludes many artists, so the community doesn’t get to see their work.”

Besides the obvious need for more funding, Buddhdev says that the biggest hurdles facing these groups is the lack of collaboration in the community.

“If an artist lives in B.C. and wants to put on an event, they are expected to hire a space and do it themselves,” says Buddhdev. “It’s very discouraging. It sends the message that we have space but we don’t want to take the risk and responsibility attached to helping put something on.”

Sudnya Mulye. | Photo by Brendan Lally

That lack of investment from outside quarters leads to many people not being able to share their work or their ideas, which stagnates both them and the community. It’s what Buddhdev calls a self-perpetuating negative: if art and culture aren’t shown, then the community won’t want to invest in it without seeing the value.

“Funding is always an issue,” says Buddhdev. “But some people have just gotten used to a closed environment surrounding these groups. There are many incredible people here. We have to let them be heard.”

Buddhdev sees the arts and the practices of cultural groups here in B.C. as a vessel for a more informed society and a way to create more active communities.

“It’s about representing cultural aspects that reside in B.C. and are influenced by people who came to B.C. accurately,” says Buddhdev. “We want to equip ourselves with honest engagement and true knowledge.”

As for the panel she will be leading, Buddhdev hopes that it can serve as a gateway for those in attendance towards more learning and engagement with all of the vibrant and different communities B.C. has to offer.

“I want to give people a taste of something they never thought existed, so they leave wanting to learn more,” she says.

For more information about the Alliance and the upcoming conference, visit www.allianceforarts.com.

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