This has been a year of 'firsts' for me. I have settled down to stay in a town long term, I have left my hourly rate job, and plunged into the uncertainty of pursuing my dream of being a professional artist; I have become a first time dog owner and I am for the first time undertaking the challenge of organizing a community event – the Culture Crawl Kelowna!
The concept of this event has been brewing for many years in both my head and has been a swelling undercurrent in the arts community of Kelowna since I arrived back here about three years ago. The arts community here is a small but vibrant one, in which news and ideas travel fast. It seems there has for a long time been much excitement and talk about more artist run initiatives in this region, like collectives, artist run centres, and culture crawls!
I had the wonderful experience to have been educated in Vancouver BC, at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. It was here that my passion for the arts was nurtured, and grew to be an all-encompassing facet of my life. I see the value in arts and culture on so many societal levels, as it can bridge the gaps of language, age, culture, status and even sensory perception. Most importantly, I found that Vancouver had so many points of entry into the arts, such as Swarm, and East Side Culture Crawl, which truly granted entry to a wide array of cultural centres to any individual with an appreciation for the arts. I further had a brilliant group of peers I was surrounded by in my education, with whom I participated in starting an artist collective, which grew to actualize as an artist run centre with a storefront gallery and studio space near the downtown Chinatown area in Vancouver. Our dreams came to fruition about the same time that many funding cuts were happening to the arts in BC, and so we were able to welcome some more established galleries into our space as they were forced to close their doors due to lack of grant dollars. I think it was these experiences all rolled together which helped me realize that no matter what level of experience someone has in creating something new, if you have an idea, and the passion and drive to just go for it – sometimes it will just work out!
Now many years later, after living abroad and pursuing many different career paths, I have found myself back in Kelowna, my hometown, striving to find something similar to this collective, community based, creative atmosphere that I had in Vancouver. I can't even believe my good fortune to have stumbled upon what I see as one of the most vibrant communities I have been involved in for quite some time. This epicentre of creativity is located at the newly found 'working gallery' called heART school. The once stuffy office space just upstairs from a busy Starbucks in central downtown Kelowna was renovated over a matter of months into a bright, spacious, beautiful studio space – now shared with an amazingly inspiring group of local artists. The brilliant and generous owner of the space, and amazing artist in her own right, Carrie Harper, has been a wonderful motivation and inspiration to me. Her ability to envision this corporate space as a creative community – and act on this vision – has inspired me to pursue the seemingly impossible. It was in this space that the ideas for the culture crawl surfaced, and I have seized the opportunity to facilitate this new beginning!
Drawing from my experiences in Vancouver and some inspiration from those around me, I see that when we unite as a whole, the sum is greater than the parts. This is the root of my concept for the culture crawl. By bringing together artists, businesses, city figures, and a multitude of art supporters , with each contributing their part, we will make this a wonderful, diverse and self sustaining art event in Kelowna. It is a marvellous coincidence that our inaugural crawl event will be occurring over the Culture Days weekend this year, as I truly think our vision reflects the grassroots initiative that Culture Days itself was spurred from.
All the final bits and details of the event are falling into place as Culture Days approaches. Life does not offer us foresight of the outcome of events and first time endeavours are especially opaque. Nevertheless, I will advance the interests of this event and its contribution to our community with nothing but the wholehearted belief that we will succeed to the fullest measure. Being a year of firsts, I have no idea what's going to happen next. All I can do is keep plugging along and enjoying the ride.
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