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March 17, 2017

ArtStarts Showcase 2017

ArtStarts Showcase 2017

Thanks to everyone who made the ArtStarts Showcase 2017 a great success! On March 6-7, we welcomed close to 80 delegates from across BC to the Orpheum Annex in Vancouver. Wonderful things happen when arts champions gather together!

The theme of this year's event was "what if..." Looking ahead to the unknowable future that faces young people, we asked will the world be like in 20 years? How can young people prepare for careers that don't even exist yet? What can we do today to help our young people grow up to be the innovators, dreamers and leaders of the future? It all starts with imagining what's possible and asking, "what if..."

We were honoured to welcome two special guests to open this year's Showcase. Salia Joseph is an intern with the Aboriginal Youth Internship program and is currently doing her placement with BC Arts Council. Salia is from the Squamish Nation and recently completed a degree in Critical Indigenous Studies from UBC. Salia began by acknowledging the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh Nation, where we gathered. She offered caring words and sang a Squamish song while she played her drum. She also took care to explain about the importance of acknowledging land and culture, explaining her personal connection to this process, as well as the personal and cultural significance of the elements she chose for the occasion, such as her regalia and hand-made drum. Thanks to Salia for providing us all with such a thoughtful and warm welcome.

We were also pleased to welcome Mayor Gregor Roberston to this year's Showcase. Mayor Roberston spoke passionately about the importance of the arts in his own life as a young man. He expressed how his early experiences with music had profound impact on his life, helping shape who he is as a person and supporting his path to become Mayor. He also spoke of the importance of the arts to citizens, offering countless social, cultural and economic benefits to the community. The newly launched Creative Spark Vancouver grant, funded by the City of Vancouver and disbursed by ArtStarts, is just one example of how the City aims to support emerging artists and help build a stronger creative community. Thanks to Mayor Robertson for adding his meaningful words to the ongoing conversation about the importance of the arts. After his welcome, Mayor Robertson and ArtStarts Executive Director Navida Nuraney took the time to explore the new exhibition at the ArtStarts Gallery, the only free, public gallery in Canada exclusively dedicated to young people's art. Next year, we'd love to see Mayors from other BC cities join us.

Delegates included representatives from schools and school districts, and community presenters. They experienced 27 showcase performances by talented artists who have developed performances for young audiences. A wide range of artistic disciplines and cultural backgrounds were presented on stage—from hip hop to blues music, from African dance to Japanese taiko drumming, from circus arts to original theatre, from improv to Indigenous storytelling, and much more.

This year, delegates enjoyed showcase performances by Axis Theatre Company, Blues Berries, Boris Sichon, Devon More Music, Dumpsta Dragons, Flyin' Bob, Gérald Laroche, Goh Ballet Youth Company, Gord Grdina, Green Thumb Theatre, Heath Tarlin Entertainment, Jacky Essombe, Jamie Oliverio, Jeff Leard, Metaphor, Mohamed Assani and John Oliver, Monster Theatre, Sand Northrup, Shameless Hussy Productions, Shayna Jones, Sm:)e Band, Speed Control, 3 Crows Productions, Tribal Vision Dance, Unity Charity, Uzume Taiko and Vancouver TheatreSports League.

These artists are part of ArtStarts' Artists on Tour Directory, which now features 98 artists and 149 performances available to tour across BC starting in September 2017. We are accepting bookings now for the upcoming season.

This year, we presented a pilot project called Pitch and Perform. Five new artists were mentored by experienced artists in advance of the ArtStarts Showcase to help them prepare a short pitch of their school show to a room full of delegates for feedback. This year, we welcomed to the Pitch and Perform stage All Bodies Dance Project and Bohemia Ballet (mentored by Dianna David), Rhythm Resource and Sirreal (mentored by Teddy Anderson), and Stéphanie Morin-Robert (mentored by Sand Northrup, One Woman Circus). The project was well received by delegates and artists alike, and we hope to develop it further in the future.

The Showcase theme of "what if..." was explored in-depth through a panel discussion. Our guests on the panel were Suzanne Hoffman (Chief Educator, Ministry of Education), Marlene Funk (Principal, Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts, Sumas Mountain Campus), Rup Sidhu (Interdisciplinary Artist and Educator) and Maggie Milne Martens (Parent and arts advocate), moderated by Briana Linden (Director of Programs, Young Audiences of Oregon and SW Washington). Together, they shared their thoughts on questions such as, "What is your vision for art in education in the next 20 years?" and "In our culture, why is art not considered essential but extra?" Questions for the panel were developed by teens in our Youth Advisory Committee, who collaborated in a workshop to explore their thoughts about the value of arts in education.

We also heard young people's ideas about what the future might hold. Student audiences joined us in the theatre throughout the event to give a sense of how the performances would be received in schools. A few students from each class got up on stage to read letters they had written about how they imagine the world will be 20 years from now.

"Twenty years from now the cars will be powered by gamma rays. I think the sun would grow brighter. The job that I would do would be inventor. The schools will be powered by solar energy." —Adrian, Grade 1

"I hope that schools and communities are more creative-based. Not necessarily 'art', although I would love more arts integration. I just really hope youth and people are more challenged to create... I hope my children grow up in a more loving, respectful, equal world—and I want them to learn while young how not to judge, and see everyone as a powerful human being." —Rachel, Grade 11

Nellie Sun, a Grade 10 student at Churchill Secondary in Vancouver, accompanied by her friend Lydia Sochan, addressed the delegates to share her personal feelings about the importance of the arts and how creative experiences have impacted her the way she learns, how she chooses to spend her energy, and how she sees the world. You can read Nellie's full speech here.

"We will use our creativity to slowly find solutions to all these problems and to heal the world. We are all geniuses, and we are all creative." —Nellie Sun, Grade 10

Throughout the two-day event, there were many opportunities for mingling and networking—catching up with colleagues and making new connections. In addition to lunches, coffee breaks and receptions, this year we added breakfasts to the event, allowing for delegates to ease into the day with a warm cup of coffee, a delicious meal and great conversation.

On the second morning, delegates met with fellow delegates from their own regions of the province over breakfast to discuss strategies for bringing the artists into their districts.

After a day in the theatre, delegates had an opportunity to delve into deeper conversations at the Opening Reception in the Contact Room. The Contact Room enabled delegates to connect with showcasing artists and other artists from the Artists on Tour Directory, to learn more about their offerings for young audiences and how they might suit the needs of individual schools or regions.

We are grateful for the support we received to make this year's event possible. Thanks to our funders, the British Columbia Arts Council and the Government of BC, Canadian Heritage and Canada Council for the Arts. Thanks to the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Civic Theatres for awarding us a grant to support our use of the Orpheum Annex venue.

Thanks to the community partners that generously supported this year's ArtStarts Showcase. We would like to thank the following groups for their generous contribution and meaningful support:

Special thanks to all the delegates who attended and the artists who performed on stage as well as those in the Contact Room. Thanks to the ArtStarts volunteers for all their hard work and dedication. Thanks to our emcees David MacPherson and Anne Glover, and student audiences from Nootka Elementary, Lord Roberts Elementary, Ecole Pauline Johnson and Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts. Thanks to our Production Manager Tom Fijal and his fabulous backstage crew, the Orpheum Annex and the VSO School of Music.

We've posted lots of photos from the ArtStarts Showcase 2017 for you to enjoy. Be sure to check out our Facebook album!

We look forward to collaborating further with delegates to help put our experiences at Showcase into action to bring arts experiences to young people in communities across BC.

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