Howard Jang appointed Director of SFU Woodward’s Cultural Unit

Photo by Rachel Lando

Photo by Rachel Lando

With a decorated career in the arts, Howard Jang has enriched the lives of Vancouver’s communities through his contributions to the Arts Club Theatre Company. This has played an important part in his decision to seek new horizons as director and professor at SFU Woodward’s Cultural Unit. In the mid-2000s, Jang started questioning the status quo of the arts; more pointedly, he was concerned about the sort of business he was conducting.

Jang explains, “I became concerned with how art is exhibited, and what could be said about the value of this exhibition.”

Collaborating with not-for-profits like Tourism Vancouver and the Canada Council of the Arts incited Jang to reflect on the difficulties associated with framing a purpose for art productions.

The value of the arts for enriching communities

“With Tourism Vancouver, we were counting the economic factor. With organizations that support the intrinsic value of art, we are looking at an intangible goal whose attainment is difficult to measure,” explains Jang.

When asked what prompted Jang’s transition from the Arts Club Theatre Company to a joint position at Simon Fraser University, Jang’s views on the role of the artist became clear. Jang’s family history is tied to the Woodward’s community; his mother was an employee of the original department store. As an extension of his personal attachment to the area, Jang hopes to use his role at the Woodward’s Cultural Unit to strengthen preexisting ties as well as form new partnerships within a rapidly developing neighborhood.

“My aim is to allow art to facilitate the strengthening of our communities,” says Jang.

Jang’s vision for SFU

That said, Jang admits that his appointment at Simon Fraser University is a bit of an odd one. His role as director of the Cultural Unit is to ensure that artists have the resources to pursue their art form. On the other hand, it is an opportunity to develop a new program for creative entrepreneurship, which aims to equip artists with the skills to be self-dependent.

“The goal of this program is not to make the artist a manager, or to downgrade the intrinsic value of artistic pursuits,” he says.

Rather, the essential motive is to prepare artists to take on non-artistic tasks like logistical planning or community engagement vis-a-vis partnerships and cooperatives. Jang’s current mission is to identify the community groups that the Cultural Unit wants to engage with. He cites the student population as one group that has not been engaged in an impactful way as of yet.

“Fostering strong ties between students, professors and/or professionals in the field via mentorships, co-ops, internships and other professional development projects will be key,” says Jang.