The ACT Art Centre & Theatre in Maple Ridge hosted a number of activities for Culture Days last year, including their own 10th Anniversary celebrations. Nazanin Shoja had the opportunity to interview Karen Pighin, Communications Manager at the ACT, to learn about one of BC’s highlight Culture Days activity hubs in 2012.
NS: Can you tell me about your organization and what inspired you to join the Culture Days movement?
KP: We are supporters and promoters of arts and culture. It is not just important for the organization to join a national movement but it is important for staff, patrons and the communities we serve to realize that we are part of a large network of those that support culture. And, it is important to see what others are doing, and use that as a tool to share the impact culture has across our country.
NS: What kind of activities did you host for Culture Days last year?
KP: We had a full day of activities including clay play and face-painting, plus live performances and interactive demonstrations by Nigel Tucker (Celtic musician), Holy Wow Poets (poetry reading), Maple Ridge Concert Band, Boris Sichon (musician), and Shawn Farquhar (magician). A presentation by artist Michelle Sirois-Silver was held at the Maple Ridge Art Gallery and we celebrated ACT’s 10th Anniversary, honouring our partners, arts program instructors and volunteers.
NS: How did the community respond to your activities?
KP: We had a large number of very involved participants. People of all ages participated in the workshops and arts demonstrations. The ceremony was well attended and the celebratory cake a hit. People that attended were polled and they said that there seemed like there was something for everyone, and that they would come back again next year.
NS: Did Culture Days bring more awareness to your work? If so, how?
KP: I think that bringing the community together is always a positive experience. I think it gave us the opportunity to share more of what we do and that we are a full service arts centre. We say we are the hub of culture in our community. This was an opportunity for the public to see that first hand. I also think that it’s important to have people that might not come to an arts centre see that we are welcoming and willing to involve all ages and cultures.
NS: What do you feel made your activity successful?
KP: When more people show up and participate in and enjoy the activities, we use this as a measure of success. But, for me, a more important marker is will they return? Did they go home and talk about their day? Did they learn or experience something new? Did they tell their friends and family about their experience? Will they return before next year? Will they bring someone with them that hasn’t been to the Arts Centre before? This year we will have a draw for tickets to an ACT Presents performance and to enter, we will ask some of these questions.
NS: What tips do you have for future activity organizers?
KD: I recommend involving diverse artists and organizations. Look at what you are trying to achieve and use the celebration of culture to highlight this. Have clear messaging. It’s a day to celebrate and share your contribution to culture. Have your target audience clear in your mind. Create an event that speaks directly to them. Share that you are part of a wide network throughout Canada that promotes culture and that culture has a significant impact on the daily lives of people in your community….and show what that impact is.
NS: Do you have any plans for Culture Days 2013?
KP: Yes, we sure do. The Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Arts Council is partnering with the local Family Education and Support Centre, a non-profit society that provides information, education and encouragement to enable people to make healthy choices relative to their personal, community and family lives. We will be inviting the public to join us on Saturday, Sept. 28th to celebrate and learn about the cultures that contribute to our communities with Celebrating our Cultures, a free event that examines different expressions of art and offers a free concert from The Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra Small Ensemble. This ensemble is a professional concert orchestra devoted specifically to performing new intercultural music. Founded in 2001, it was one of the first such ensembles in the world, and is currently the only one of its kind in Canada. With a mission to offer a fresh and relevant voice in the contemporary music of our country, these composers and musicians are on the cutting edge, writing and performing the Canadian music of the future. They are a creative force for innovation, diversity and understanding. Ensemble members include Ali Razmi (tar), Bic Hoang (dan bau), Gelina Jiang (zheng), Moshe Denburg (voice and guitar), Mike Dowler (clarinet), and Martin Fisk (percussion).
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