In 2013, BC Culture issued its very first call for artists and cultural workers to apply for the role of “BC Culture Days Champion.” The goal was to find someone involved with Culture Days and their local arts community who could represent BC artists on behalf of BC Culture Days. The prize was a trip to Toronto to attend the National Congress on Culture. Not only was the champion to act as a delegate, but as a spokesperson and promoter of Culture Days around the province through production of a Culture Days activity and communication through social media and the Culture Days blog page. That year, the winner was Denise Corcoran, visual artist and “upcycling” craft expert from North Vancouver.
Denise gave her very first upcycling workshop or “Crafternoon” as part of Culture Days in 2012. “It was an awesome experience and started me on an amazing path. I love the idea of Culture Days and with the experience I had in 2012, it seemed appropriate to apply and be the cheerleader for BC Culture Days,” said Corcoran.
Corcoran partnered with the North Vancouver City Library for her Culture Days event, who helped promote the workshop. She also connected with the former Arts Office, now consolidated with North Vancouver Recreation & Culture, and the BC Culture Days team for help getting the word out.
Corcoran was active in promoting Culture Days through her Thrifty By Design website blog, and numerous social media channels used regularly for her crafting and upcycling work. Her community partners, such as the North Vancouver City Library, were also active in promoting community Culture Days event information and news shared with them.
The Crafternoons have brought an average of 50+ participants of all ages and skill levels. “We get together, make cool stuff out of ‘junk’ and connect with new and old friends. It’s fun to bring a bunch of people together and craft. People I met at my first workshop still attend the Crafternoons and have become good friends. It’s such a wonderful experience to meet new people and stay connected afterwards”, says Corcoran.
As a result of her role as BC Culture Days Ambassador, Corcoran had the opportunity to connect with many members of the community. Leading up to the Culture Days weekend, she was asked to speak on behalf of Culture Days for numerous print and TV interviews, all of which has led to a successful series of upcycling workshops throughout Vancouver. She has also been asked to write for online publications, has been offered more TV gigs, and is currently writing a “crafty” book. “The best part is I still keep in touch with people I met as the BC Culture Days Ambassador,” says Corcoran. Corcoran continues to participate in Culture Days, offering Crafternoons at the North Vancouver City Library.
In 2014, the role of BC Culture Days Ambassador was passed on to Kelowna poet, writer, and teacher, Rawle Iam James. James is founder of Kelowna’s Inspired Word Café, a spoken word event hosted during Culture Days and throughout the year. The opportunity to act as Ambassador was brought to his attention by the City of Kelowna’s Cultural Services Department. James saw this as an opportunity to showcase Kelowna’s arts and culture community and, more specifically, spoken word artists.
After being selected as BC Culture Days Ambassador, James was also contracted by the City of Kelowna to act as the community’s Culture Days animator, working with the municipal team to identify potential Culture Days events, which they would then promote and market to the public.
James helped promote local artists, arts organizations, and cultural groups by connecting with local media to talk about Culture Days and creating a Facebook page dedicated to Kelowna Culture Days. A lot of the work involved having “boots on the ground,” says James. “Having built a large network of people through the Inspired Word Café, I was fortunate to have a strong team of volunteers to help me hand out flyers and information to people walking on the street.”
James’ involvement as BC Culture Days Ambassador lead to many collaborations with businesses and arts organizations, such as the Alliance for Creative Artists. James helped find venues for participants wanting to present activities and made sure they had the tools they needed to promote them. A particularly memorable hub of activities James helped promote took place at the Rotary Centre for the Arts, where participants of all ages were invited to take part in a Rhythm Wall, Drum Circle, Songwriters Studio, Musical Petting Zoo, Resident Artists Open House, and Weaving Wall. James was also invited to share his poem “Rainbow Culture” at the provincial launch event in Surrey, where he facilitated a poetry activity for kids as well. “Having Kelowna represented at the launch helped give a greater sense of pride to our local arts and cultural community,” says James.
James’ Inspired Word Café event has grown since his involvement with Culture Days as well. “More people open doors and it’s helped put a spotlight on my work. Going to Winnipeg for the National Congress put me in a good place and launched me towards what I needed to do in September for Culture Days,” says James. As far as advice for the next Culture Days Ambassador, James recommends they “truly immerse themselves in the Congress, take the opportunity to connect, and find out what others are doing in their community.” The next National Congress on Culture is set for May 7 & 8, 2015 at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton. The deadline to apply to become a 2015 BC Culture Days Ambassador is April 13, 2015.
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