A Fundamental Stepping Stone in fostering Community Change


By Tatiana Zamorano

Photos by Syed Mustafa

Permission to reprint granted by the Vancouver Arts Colloquium Society

20170312-IMG_1123Community is necessary and a crucial element that society requires in order to thrive as community has the power to create culture and sense of belonging, which produces unity amongst individuals and fosters compassion for one another, that then contributes to the wellbeing of individuals and the regeneration of sustainable communities. However, over the years the values and dynamics of communities have changed due to the framework that encompasses us, which has worked to generate a society founded on profit and individualism. This urbanized society has increased the levels of social isolation and self-interest within our societies, which has broken the necessary bonds needed to keep community and culture alive and thriving. So the question that remains is how can we combat social isolation and reignite sustainable communities? Well the Vancouver Arts Colloquium Society (VACS) believes that art is a central tool in creating this vision of sustainable community as, art is rooted in culture which has the capacity to bind people together through profound relationships, that produce bounded solidarity amongst community members that then incites change and builds strongly connected communities.

20170312-IMG_1109 Therefore, through VACS’s mission art has played a pivotal role in building community and in nurturing and cultivating culture, which VACS wanted to share with the public but not solely through their initiatives. Instead VACS wanted to take their idea centered on the vitality of art even further and focused on how they could relay this revelation of art to others in order to make others comprehend their vision in which art is an essential component in generating sustainable communities and culture. However, the hurdle that stood in their path was formulating a method that would enable VACS as a team to reach out to their communities and facilitate an understanding of the importance of art and the power it entails in shifting the dynamics of wounded communities. Additionally, VACS wanted to make space for ideas to be heard and where members of the community could have an equal opportunity to contribute and share their ideas and stories. So how did VACS accomplish this? Well VACS understood that all change begins by having and generating discussions as it is through these conversations that community members can come into the circle to discuss concepts such as, art fostering culture to create sustainable communities. Conversations have the ability to plant seeds of knowledge and are essential as they are the first step in organizing community, raising awareness on ideas and forming new concepts that have the power to reignite community. 

20170312-IMG_1356With this in mind in order to advocate community change the Vancouver Arts Colloquium Society crafted the skill share round table discussions to bring attention to communal issues and concepts with the aim of developing our communities. The skill share round table discussion allocates agency to the members of the community and provides them with the opportunity to participate and contribute to their community. In addition, these discussions and concepts relayed by VACS generate conversations, fuelled by the community that are centered upon sharing ideas and building relationships by inviting community and local organizations to come together and collectively learn, implement and develop new concepts that can be integrated into our communities. 

One concept that VACS team members hold close to their hearts is art, each VACS member has a story and embedded within each of their stories is a connection to art that is bounded to their cultures and binds them to one another. As Abby Willowroot wisely put it “Art speaks the soul of its culture “ and for this reason and their personal experiences the VACS team wanted to show others the power and role art has in generating culture and community. In our skill share round table discussion series two the VACS team members wanted to highlight how art cultivates culture and how culture is the force that fosters sustainable communities. In order to present this topic the VACS team collectively came together drafting presentations, developing ideas and reworking and perfecting presentations to be able to present their concept to the public. This collaborative experience enables these unique leaders to overcome any obstacles as a group and leads to positive learning experiences that generate outstanding results. Collectively the team put together a presentation that would resonate with their audience and reach the hearts of their community. In order to accomplish this the team also wanted to provide real life examples of art cultivating culture that creates a sense of community so the VACS team invited and included community leaders and artists such as David Lemon founder of the Health Arts Society, Lilia d’Acres, author of Secrets of the Span, Salome Nieto a dancer & arts programmer of the Shadbolt Centre, Jill Henderson of the Contemporary Art Gallery and a government representative representing Counselor Elizabeth Ball to share their inspiring stories and viewpoints surrounding arts and culture.20170312-IMG_1041

Through these genuine heartfelt stories and successful initiatives that all worked to build community and foster culture through various forms of art the team was able to generate a successful community integrated and oriented skill share round table discussion where they conveyed the strength that art holds in creating culture and community. The skill share roundtable discussion gave the team a platform where they demonstrated, illuminated and conveyed that art has the ability to bring people together as it is intricately linked to our culture, regardless of what form or shape your art takes, embedded within it is a little piece of ourselves which is rooted in our histories, our stories and our hearts. Through these various forms of art we are able to share our culture with others, which binds people to one another. Thus, although we may come from different abodes the histories that form our diverse cultures connect us, weather it is through shared adversity, beliefs, traditions, values or ideals these stories can be relayed through our art. It is our unique diverse forms of art that enable us to share a glimpse of ourselves with others, which tie us to one another. Therefore, art is an integral tool in fostering community as it generates unification that has the power to create sustainable communities in which arts and culture work together to produce change and build viable communities.  This message and concept that was emphasized throughout the Skillshare presentation and discussion truly resonated with the community members, presenters and government elites who all understood and could personally relate to the crucial role arts play in creating viable communities.

20170312-IMG_1126As a result, the skill share round table discussion series two was a great success as it fostered change, created relationships and encouraged community and cultural development. Thus, this innovative idea of the skill share roundtable discussions is integral as it encourages and inspires community through conversations and discussions, which are fundamental stepping-stones to creating profound community change.