Raised in Ladysmith, Andrea Creamer, a visual arts graduand in Simon Fraser University’s School for the Contemporary Arts (SCA), hails from small town British Columbia.
But her boundless passion for making art accessible to disadvantaged communities and creating art that incites public discussion is leading her to create a big footprint in community engagement in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Creamer’s initially small-town view that visual arts has limited career options led her to pursue a diploma in community recreation programming at Langara College.
But then a stint working on literacy programs for new immigrants and Aboriginal people through 2010 Legacies Now exposed her to discussions about art and public spaces, hosted by SFU’s School of Communication.
That ignited Creamer’s five-year pursuit of relational aesthetics, also called socially engaged art practice, at SFU’s SCA. The field marries the study of art history and the creation of art with meaningful social engagement to spark social and economic improvement at a community grassroots level.
Following some mentoring by Am Johal, community engagement coordinator, Vancity Office of Community Engagement, SFU Woodwards Cultural Unit, Creamer started coordinating SFU’s involvement in community projects such as Contemporary Arts 101 and Community Journalism 101.
Offered in conjunction with community partners, the courses, respectively, help downtown eastside residents engage directly with artists through a speaker series and gain journalistic writing and reporting skills, which they parlay into published work.
“Andrea has been instrumental in building relationships between Downtown Eastside residents and the SFU community,” says Johal. “Her support of community projects has been exemplary and her artistic practice brings a social aesthetic that comes from a rooted understanding of what it means to produce art in such a complex neighbourhood context.”