Tracks: 7th Canadian Community Play & Arts Symposium

Tracks: 7th Canadian Community Play and Arts Symposium is a five-day community-engaged arts symposium with the purposes to: bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists who are creating with, for and about communities; explore the ways we can/will/do live together in the shadow of colonialism. Hosted by two BC communities, one urban (Vancouver) and one rural (Grindrod/Enderby BC), the symposium events will take place in Vancouver at both the Ukrainian Hall (tbc) in the Downtown Eastside, and at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre (Vancouver); and in Grindrod/Enderby (located just east of Salmon Arm, BC) at location(s) to be announced. The symposium is produced by Vancouver Moving Theatre with Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation/Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre (Vancouver/Coast Salish Territory); Runaway Moon Theatre, Grindrod/Enderby, BC (BC/Secwepemcul’ecw Territory); Jumblies Theatre, Toronto (National/Turtle Island). The 7th National Community Play and Arts Symposium is a forum for B.C. and Canadian artists to learn and discuss issues related to creating and producing community engaged projects that involve indigenous artists and artists of other cultural backgrounds working together in the wake of our colonial history. This focus is driven by a sense of urgency and awareness of developments and directions in both aboriginal and non-aboriginal relations, and in the field of community-engaged arts in BC/Canada. We are convening BC and Canadian artists who:
  1. Create original art, the content, form and presentation of which is developed with, for and about people and places engaged;
  2. Play with/allow artistic forms to mutate to suit aesthetic, social and community realities;
  3. Engage with and create inclusive community;
  4. Further collaborations, alliances and understanding between Indigenous and settler/ immigrant cultures in Canada.
Within this theme much rich dialogue comes into play:  questions of identity, of the impact of colonialism, of respect, of building a future together, of differences and similarities between Aboriginal and artists of other cultural backgrounds and practices, our values, frames of reference, and historical connection to land and place. These matters are vital for British Columbians/Canadians and artists of diverse backgrounds to grapple with. In the words of jil p. weaving, Arts and Culture Co-ordinator, City of Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation: “This symposium is absolutely necessary: we need this knowledge sharing and transfer opportunity. We cannot proceed as we have over the last 150 years. We must find new ways of living and working together.”  [caption id="attachment_1174" align="alignleft" width="720"]storyweaving-60-FINAL DANCE w EAGLE, Symposium, Colour M Montogomery photo cropped_1064 Storyweaving, 2012 (Vancouver Moving Theatre) / Mark Montgomery photo[/caption] There are many very successful and inspiring community engaged arts projects produced in BC and across Canada by indigenous and non-indigenous artists that enter into these issues and questions. We have much to learn from these collaborations:  What worked or didn’t work? What were the challenges? What was the process? What was learned? What was the impact on the artists, art practice, participants and the community?  What kind of art resulted?   What next steps were envisioned and taken? What are the new visions for a future BC/Canada that are being created? The objectives of the Symposium are to:
  • Address the social and cultural divide in our province and country;
  • Make a significant and high impact contribution to knowledge transfer about best practices in community engaged cross-cultural art in BC/Canada;
  • Provide opportunities for artists, organizers, thinkers and educators from BC/Canada to network;
  • Build the collegial community in community engaged practice; and create legacies for the future.
The Symposium opens – as is traditional for Canadian Community Play Symposiums – with delegates attending the performance of a major multi-year theatrical project: this symposium features The Big House, a Vancouver Moving Theatre community-engaged theatrical feast created for, with and about the indigenous and founding communities of the Downtown Eastside (May 10). The second day is composed of opportunities for broad and intense exchange from practitioners from across BC/Canada/Turtle Island (May 11).  The third day will launch the Train of Thought, a month long cross-Canada arts project exploring community-engaged arts and Canada’s colonial legacy, produced by Jumblies Theatre in association with VMT and thirteen other Canadian arts organizations (May 12-June 10, 2015).  Many delegates will travel the Train of Thought to Secwepemcul’ecw Territory/Grindrod/Enderby, where additional delegates will convene and the Symposium will continue for the final two days (May 14-15). ACTIVITIES TO BE UNDERTAKEN Symposium activities include welcoming and departure protocols, a theatrical performative feast (The Big House), presentations, panels and discussions in a variety of formats, hands-on workshops, informal meetings, social gatherings and opportunities to mingle. We are inviting artists in BC/Canadian community-engaged arts to share their artistic experience navigating cultural protocols, acknowledging conflicting histories and bridging past and present to create meaningful and inclusive art.  Each presenting team will include an Indigenous artist and an artist of another cultural background who collaborated on and/or produced a community-engaged project. Delegates will include experienced and emerging community artists; community play producers; arts managers and programmers; community members; funders; cultural thinkers; educators and academics interested in community engaged practice. Delegates and presenters will have an opportunity to share documentation of their practice and network with artists, thinkers and organizers from across the country.  We will draw inspiration from each other’s work; share regional and cultural perspectives; reflect on risky ventures into new social and artistic territory; compare experiences and challenges; and establish new connections locally, regionally and nationally. To broaden and deepen the impact, the symposium is connected to two thematically related initiatives: The Big House, a VMT community-engaged theatrical feast (May 8-10), 2015 created for, with and about the indigenous and founding communities of the Downtown Eastside; and Train of Thought, a month long cross-Canada community arts project (May 12- June 10, 2015) on VIA Rail with thirteen stops and engagements in Canadian cities and towns (produced by Jumblies Theatre with Vancouver Moving Theatre and multiple national partners). NATIONAL COMMUNITY PLAY SYMPOSIA BACKGROUND Canadian Community Play Symposia bring together artists from across Canada who work with, for and about their communities, and build relationships through art between diverse people and places. These critical and practical symposia are scheduled to coincide with the producing host’s large-scale community-engaged productions.  Activities include public events, round table discussions, informal meetings, in-depth professional conversations and practical workshops.  Since 2004 six such gatherings have taken place - all in Ontario with the exception of the fourth symposium produced by Vancouver Moving Theatre in Vancouver 2008. Each symposia has brought together, from across the country, experienced community play and community-engaged practitioners, emerging and interning artists, cultural programmers and funders, and local community members. Initially launched with a focus on the legacy of community plays, the symposia have broadened to include inter/multi-disciplinary community-engaged arts. The intention has always been to share practices in welcoming art that engages with and builds inclusive community.

Thanks to our funding partners! The 7th Canadian Community Play and Arts Symposium is made possible with the generous support of our funding partners: City of Vancouver, and the BC Arts Council: Arts Based Community Development Program. Thank you!

Upcoming for 2013

Vancouver Moving Theatre is currently working on five community engaged projects: THE BIG HOUSE is a theatrical performative feast that  celebrates  the neighbourhood’s founding cultures,  weaving together music, story sharing,  hands-on art-making and feasting traditions of Vancouver’s  Downtown Eastside. This spring April 2013 we will offer workshops on “The Art of Hospitality” and try out two work-in-progress prototypes of The Big House in partnerships with the folks at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House. Co-produced in association with Toronto’s Jumblies Theatre, the project brings together producer Terry Hunter, artistic director Savannah Walling, designer Ruth Howard, musician Beverly Dobrinsky and culinary artist Rosemary Georgeson.  The premiere of the production/event will be held in May 2014 at a yet to be determined location in the Downtown Eastside. [caption id="attachment_878" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Theatrical-performative feast, Arts for All Institute: Oppen-Arts, Oppenheimer Park, November 2010. Photo courtesy Keith Martin."][/caption] BREAD AND SALT is a music, dance and oral history tribute to the historic and current Ukrainian Canadian community of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. A collaboration between Vancouver Moving Theatre, Beverly Dobrinsky (singer, composer and musical director) and the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians, Bread and Salt will take place at the Ukrainian Hall (805 East Pender Street) during the 2013 Heart of the City Festival in an event commemorating the 85th anniversary of Vancouver’s Association of United Ukrainian Canadians. TRAIN OF THOUGHT: Vancouver Moving Theatre is pleased to be joining the coast-to-coast creative multi-community journey: Train of Thought, produced by Jumblies Theatre and cross-country partners including Vancouver Moving Theatre.  Timed to coincide with The Big House, the innovative networking project will link and develop community arts initiatives through an evolving dialogic journey across Canada by train with at least eight stops along the way,  connecting with fellow Canadian community artists engaged on projects for, about and celebrating their communities. The train leaves in May 2014 right after the final presentation of The Big House! THE V6A PROJECT is a community arts legacy project: a celebratory history and resource of community engaged theatre and music productions and projects created with, for about the Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside from 2002 to 2012 by Vancouver Moving Theatre, the Carnegie Community Centre, DGB Productions, Savage God, Theatre in the Raw and in partnerships with Enderby, B.C.’s Runaway Moon Theatre and Toronto’s Jumblies Theatre. The resource features a 180 page book, a slide show, a website and a visual display.  Please visit to view the nine productions featured in the resource package.  Our new book - From the Heart of a City: Community Engaged Theatre Productions from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside 2002-2012 - will be ready for distribution soon. As of the writing of this post, the visual display is on display at the Carnegie Community Centre gallery on the third floor. Call 604-665-2220 and ask for the Carnegie administration office to see if the display is still up. BAH! HUMBUG!:  Victorian England meets Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in a bittersweet twist on the cherished classic that celebrates the transformative power of human redemption.  Commissioned and co-produced by SFU Woodward’s Cultural Programs in partnership with Vancouver Moving Theatre, the East End adaptation of the Charles Dickens holiday favorite, “A Christmas Carol”, benefits the Downtown Eastside Heart of the Festival and community arts in the Downtown Eastside.  (December 2013, Fei & Milton Wong Theatre). We hope to see you at one of these events and/or our anniversary celebrations. As always, Terry Hunter Executive Director 11 February 2013