Conference focuses on art, culture

June 24, 2004, vol. 30, no. 5
By Carol Thorbes

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A Simon Fraser University conference will examine the dynamics between culture and the arts, including the fine and performing art, the humanities and literature.

“In today's increasingly multicultural societies one of the results of cultural interaction is artistic fusion. That can be very exciting and productive,” notes Sharon Bailin, a SFU professor of drama education and the conference organizer.

Bailin says educators' growing interest in how culture and the arts interact motivated her to organize the unique Arts, Culture and Education Institute slated for July 12 to 23 at the Burnaby campus.

“The institute conference will look at how culture shapes artistic expression and how the arts interact with and affect culture. We'll also look at how focusing on culture might impact arts education,” explains Bailin, who researches creativity across cultures.

Bailin believes the conference is timely because funds for the arts are dwindling.

“I think it's dangerous to be so utilitarian in our pursuit of economic and technological growth that we devalue the development of human values and critical thinking through the arts,” says Bailin. “Studies show that students in schools with strong arts programs do better in all subjects than in schools where the arts are de-emphasized. But that should not be the main reason for promoting the arts in education.”

The following are some of the speakers featured at the conference:

Richard Anderson is a professor of cultural anthropology and comparative aesthetics at the Kansas City Art Institute.

He will demonstrate art's power to affect the world we live in, using examples of Western and non-Western art.

Bailin will examine how creativity is understood in a variety of cultures and how these conceptions are related to particular philosophical beliefs.

Max Wyman, writer, critic and commentator on the arts, will argue that we treat the arts as a frill at our peril. The author of Why Culture Matters will discuss how the arts cultivate harmonious co-existence between different cultures.

Live performances representing Canada's cultural diversity, hands-on workshops, art exhibits and field trips to community arts projects are among many conference events.

Tessie Dichupa, an award-winning Filipina-Canadian watercolour painter and art teacher, will create works and share techniques.

SFU's elite bhangra team and a traditional international bhangra team will perform. Bhangra is a lively form of folk music and dance that originates in the Punjab. Dancers and singers perform in richly coloured costumes.

See acei for program details or contact Loree Lawrence, for more information.

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