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SFU.CA Burnaby | Surrey | Vancouver

Inspiration for change:

Rethinking arts & culture

The creative economy is among the fastest growing economic sectors in the developed world. Increasingly, we are makers of meaning—not just materials. Since 1965, Simon Fraser University has kept stride with culture’s cutting edge. Now we’re picking up the pace.

Rendering of the New home to SFU Contemporary Arts

Call it an arts transplant: Vancouver’s cultural landscape will be reinvigorated when SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts moves downtown in late 2009.

The revolutionary training programs in contemporary music, dance, theatre, film and visual arts pioneered by such noted artists as R. Murray Schafer, Grant Strate, John Juliani, David Rimmer and Jeff Wall, will soon relocate to the historic Woodward’s district. With exciting new cultural facilities—theatres, screening rooms, sound studios, and galleries—the school space will combine public exhibition and performance with intensive interdisciplinary teaching, and promises to be a magnet for arts enthusiasts from around the world.

We are grateful to the donors who support our commitment to the creative city.

Vancouver businessman Milton Wong contributed $3 million to help SFU Contemporary Arts become the anchor tenant in the Woodward’s redevelopment project. And Polygon Homes chair Michael Audain donated $2 million to help create a visiting chair in visual arts that will bring international-calibre artists to Vancouver to engage with students, faculty and the community.

Michael Audain.jpg

Our students learn from masters.

In 2007, SFU Contemporary Arts composer Owen Underhill won the Outstanding Classical Composition prize at the Western Canadian Music Awards. Musical colleague Arne Eigenfeldt wrote the score for Ballet BC’s production of In and Around Kozla Street. And dance professor Judith Garay’s company, Dancers Dancing, toured throughout BC.

Dancer Spinning

Between January 2006 and June 2007, 87 SFU authors published 91 titles including textbooks, anthologies, monographs, a DVD and an online computer game. Among them was English professor David Chariandy, whose first novel, Soucouyant, was nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

David Chariandy

SFU researchers are blurring the line between art and science.

Digital animation researcher Steve DiPaola is working with the Vancouver Aquarium to create a “virtual beluga” exhibit that will raise awareness about the precarious conditions faced by wild belugas.

Steve DiPaola

DiPaola is also exploring “evolutionary art,” using a computer algorithm to create original digital artworks. He is applying evolutionary techniques of the survival of the fittest to create stunning pieces based on a portrait of Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary theory. His School of Interactive Arts & Technology colleague Jim Bizzocchi is using new high definition TV technology to redefine the television screen as an art canvas with his ambient video art.

Jim Bizzocchi

Scarlet Skellern and the Absent Urchins is a prototype interactive multimedia story created by School of Interactive Art and Technology graduate students Joshua Tanenbaum, Angela Tomizu and Kirsten Johnson. In the story, readers express preferences to the story as they explore the macabre world of Scarlet Skellern, and their choices alter the mood of the story. As the mood changes, the visuals and music adapt to change the meaning of the story, even as the plot and dialogue remain the same.

Scarlet Skellern Title Screen from Scarlet Skellern and the Absent Urchins

Visual arts professor Judy Radul’s video installations have received international acclaim. Her newest installation explores how the increased use of digital media such as video in the modern legal system affects courtroom performances.


Dance professor Henry Daniel is helping engineering colleagues Ivan Bajić and Jie Liang eliminate delay in video transmissions. With his choreographic models, they will be able to apply predictive decoding to anticipate patterns from a range of movement possibilities.

Henry Daniel

The question of who owns the past is a growing concern for scholars, aboriginal groups, policy makers—even marketing people. SFU archaeology professor George Nicholas is leading an international research team in a $2.5-million project that aims to resolve who should own or have access to ancient materials, artistic images and genetic data. The project will identify the range of intellectual property and ethical issues surrounding cultural heritage, and propose fair solutions for the future.

Totem pole in SFU's Museum of Achaeology and Ethnology

Download a PDF of the 3rd report to the community 07/08.

[ Download ]