Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Winter is here.
In this part of the world, thick carpets of leaves perfume the air and, although our Canadian west coast grey skies occasionally light up to a brilliant blue, the sun arrives late and leaves early. The wind and rain have come; we had our first wind/snowstorm earlier than usual...the first sign of a more extreme winter we are told is coming.
In many local traditional cultures, it is a time for feasting, the exchange of gifts, and cultural celebration. Many of us have much to celebrate: we live in a gorgeous, healthy, privileged place; daily survival is not, for most of us, our challenge...not in the ways in the ways faced by millions of other people around the world.
And yet, so many people around here speak of impending disaster and with such resignation. In this place of privilege, we witness increasing inequality, institutional and official selfishness and greed, “compassion fatigue” and cynicism. What will galvanize us to turn the tide, becoming more engaged, more creative and collective in our approaches to solving the complex problems we face locally and globally?
Could it be – you saw it coming – that we most urgently need an injection of arts-based dialogue?
My faith in the arts as agents for social change has waxed and waned over the many years I have spent working in the field, but recent experiences have profoundly reinforced my belief in the necessity of the lens of art and of cultural expression as an elemental step towards creating an environment of imaginative empathy and, ultimately, a more just and sustainable world.
Exploring Arts for Social Change: Communities in Action, our Fall Institute at SFU, has been a total joy. Our classes of dialogues with distinguished guests, hands-on workshops and group projects embodied some of the most energizing elements of our discipline. The diversity created by a mix of credit and community-based, non-credit students has been a potent asset; collective engagement and exchange has created insight for us all. We are now finalizing plans for a graduate level diploma program, available again for non-credit learners, for delivery next fall.
We are about to launch The Chataqua Project, a new ICASC initiative that will bring together artists and other professionals from a wide range of disciplines to share their knowledge, perspectives and practices in community-engaged, social innovation work. The first iteration of the Project takes place in Vancouver over the coming year, bringing together innovative leaders in the arts, business, academia, in the justice system and environment and social justice work, government and foundations. Our agenda includes both small-group and public events that include arts for social change methods to help nurture and deepen dialogue and knowledge-exchange. We plan to create similar projects with partners in Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto, culminating in a third JMP/ICASC international gathering in late 2013.
We will post more information on this site early in the New Year.
ICASC has partnered with faculty at the University of Melbourne in a research proposal for two years of collaboration examining various issues in the field of arts for social change in Canada and Australia.
Draconian (90%) cuts to British Columbia’s investment in arts and culture and subsequent restoration of half of the funds (a result of public outcry) maintains the province’s position as the lowest in Canada at $6 per capita. The national average is $26. Canada, itself, is one of the lowest funders in the industrialized world. Advocacy work is ongoing! As public sector support for arts and culture erodes in many places around the world, it becomes even more critical that we reach out beyond our usual circles to involve others in speaking out to support the essential work that we do.
On a personal note: in January, I am off to Helsinki for two weeks to give a keynote and to work with university faculty, students and community members. I will be away again in February, working in Ottawa and Toronto. I look forward to these opportunities for exchange; last year’s travel for work in West and South Africa, in the EU, the USA and in several Canadian centres has widened ICASC’s networks and provided a wealth of new ideas for our programs and events.
Last but not least...please stay posted as we revise and update sections of our website over the next few months!
All best wishes for a healthy and peaceful 2011,