Imagine a future: cultural spaces, dignity and community

Imagine a future: cultural spaces, dignity and community

A couple of weeks ago, I asked you to tell me your favourite venues that are no longer here. Many many people chimed in with an amazing list! I learned so much about Vancouver’s history.

Then I asked what other spaces are still around, that are important to you – which ones you’d fight to save. The response was significantly lower.

I think there are many reasons for this, not the least of which is the triage situation we’re in. How can we talk about holistic health when we’re fatally wounded? It seems unreasonable.

But maybe also culture is something we most profoundly notice in it’s absence, or in facing it’s loss. We don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone, or going.

The SaveTheRio campaign got a huge amount of public and personal support, and it was really heartening to see community come together and fight together. It was a beautiful thing, to see active solidarity creating impact.

But we can’t fight this kind of campaign for every valuable space. And even if we can, if what it takes is imminent likelihood of loss, we’re likely to lose more than we save. It’s costly and time consuming to wage this war, and so many communities can’t afford either.

And still further – what our event aims to establish is that policy does not help to protect or preserve the spaces that our communities value and need – but it can. Once the Rio is privately owned, it will continue to be subject to property tax on a multi storey building that it will never be. How many years can a cultural venue keep up with that kind of uncontrollable financial pressure?

This week and last also saw congregations about Chinatown preservation, and the importance of saving nightlife venues. We’re honing in on the issues, in every way. Shining light on the outcomes and our experiences. We are reacting to injustice and inequity. We are mobilizing.

There are, I hope, 1000 more community conversations, and 100 more community groups that will come together in the face of these adversities.

Tomorrow night, the panel I’ve been working on is intent on looking forward. Pushing past reaction and the evident, gaping wounds that our development principles are creating, and moving on to sustainable solutions. Small shifts to create big changes. Identifying where and how we can have influence.

We designed the event with the principles we hope will be common to all events, in our imagined future. ASL interpretation. Planned and honoured land acknowledgement. Community representation from diverse, representational voices across multiple communities of colour – and industry. Respecting difference while seeking unity of mission.

We’ve engaged a multitude of community voices, and I’m honoured to be with some extraordinary community leaders, to set the tone of our task. To identify which factors we can influence. I’m thankful not only for our panelists and named participants, but to the enormous number of people who have considered this event important enough to share with their own communities.

But the really important part will be the dialogue. And for that, WE NEED YOU!!!

We need you to come, not with your eyes on the concerns, the issues, the problems that we’re facing – but with your thoughts, your ideas, your wildest dreams of how we can turn this ship around.

WE NEED YOU to imagine with us a future where our cultural spaces are highly valued, and perpetually occupied with hopefulness, with dignity, with PEOPLE building COMMUNITY and focusing on the work we were meant to do. BUILDING CULTURE.

If you are an artist, or a culture worker. Or if culture is important to you. Or if you don’t know if you are any of those things, and feel overwhelmed by the challenge and want to hear about how we can come together to overcome it. Your perspective is important.

Just in case you skipped to the bottom… WE NEED YOU!!!!!!

I hope to, want to, need to see you there. With deepest respect for the things that matter to you and your community.

Let’s take a step further down a Vancouver road Where Culture Works. Together.


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