Over the last month or so hundreds of events across the region have been presented as a part of the Cultural Olympiad — from Rigoletto at the Vancouver Opera, to art installations, films, Munsch Alley, and countless concerts.
During the final days of the Olympiad many are looking ahead to next year when the focus of the world will be on sport in Vancouver, even though we’ll also have the same massive performing arts schedules to entertain all ages throughout the Lower Mainland.
I had the chance to ask a few questions to Robert Kerr, Program Director of the Cultural Olympiad. I shared pieces of a few weeks ago on E!Online but here are the answers at length:
As there’s much more to the Olympics than the actual Games, especially for a host-City, how is the Cultural Olympiad and its surrounding events becoming a vital part of our local community (whether it’s a year or two in advance or during those two weeks in 2010)?
Robert Kerr: Culture is the second pillar of the Olympic Movement and has been an integral part of the Games since ancient times. The Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad is bringing the â€œSecond Pillarâ€ alive through three annual festivals of arts and popular culture (Feb/Mar of 2008, 2009 & 2010), creating a diverse and dynamic showcase of some of the finest local, national and international artists of our time.
Through our contemporary focus and our partnership approach we are giving voice to a huge cross-section of artists that speak to the culture today in Canada and around the world. Cultural Olympiad 2009 is presenting this yearâ€™s edition in partnership with 75 different arts and cultural organizations â€“ large and small, emerging and established. In doing so we have connected with the creative pulse of our community and are reaching out to a large and diverse audience. This yearâ€™s 400+ performances and 12 exhibitions will attract over 200,000 people.
Over the course of Cultural Olympiad 2008, 2009 & 2010 weâ€™ll present over 1400 performances and exhibitions. Alongside the live experience we are about to launch an on-line program that will provide an interactive creative space in the digital universe.
Rebecca: How important do you feel it is to celebrate and showcase Canadian talent, in a Canadian city that is so greatly affected by the international entertainment industry, especially that of our neighbours to the South?
Robert Kerr: Celebrating our creative community is an essential part of celebrating ourselves â€“ who we are, what makes us tick, what connects us to our neighbours and what distinguishes us from them. As a port city Vancouver has always been a location for exchange and interaction between peoples and by extension their cultures. At the same time we have always been greater than the sum of our parts, fusing and translating the many influences that wash up on our shore into a unique vision that speaks to this place. Vancouver 2010 presents a precious opportunity where we can bring our talent to the forefront and showcase it to a global audience.
Rebecca: Do you think this will change/effect the City of Vancouver when it comes to multi-day festivals and events like this in the future?
Robert Kerr: The Cultural Olympiad is occurring during a critical period for Vancouverâ€™s cultural community. While the scene here is still developing, still shaping its identity, it has reached a stage of sophistication that gives artists, producers, presenters and audiences the confidence to reach out beyond their safety zones. We are moving well beyond borders of artistic discipline, style and genre to embrace the multi-faceted and often unpredictable nature of creativity. As this happens festivals and events are becoming more fluid and open-minded in their programming, their venues and their format. I hope the Cultural Olympiad can contribute to this process.
We can also look back at Expo 86 and see the impact that major event had on the development of our festival scene and on the Vancouver audienceâ€™s appetite for arts and culture â€“ I think the Cultural Olympiad has the same potential, if not more so, to grow events and their audience base. This is the first Winter Olympic Games that have seen a multi-year festival and we did that on purpose, so that we could not only build on the festival year after year, but also build public awareness of the vibrant arts and culture scene here in Vancouver and across Canada.
This weekend you can catch the following shows as the series draws to a close…
Tonight at the Biltmore: Alex Cuba and Zapato Negro
Tonight at the Vancity Theatre: Hockey Nights in Film
Tonight at the Roundhouse: Kokoro Dance and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
Tonight at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre: Royal Winnipeg Ballet presents Peter Pan
Opening tonight: Vancouver Anthology (free event)
You can find more on the Cultural Olympiad site, searching by municipality, date or discipline. Also, you won’t be hearing the words “no fun city” from me with regards to a lack of events any time soon.