Innovator Profile: Andrea Creamer
Innovator Profiles highlight extraordinary community members that are making a difference.
Andrea Creamer is a fourth year Visual Art student at SFU’s School for Contemporary Art. Through her artwork and volunteer activities, she is actively creating opportunities for herself and others to be more engaged with, and critically aware of, the spaces in their community.
Born in Ladymith, BC, Andrea Creamer moved to Vancouver to pursue her post- secondary education. After completing the Recreation Diploma program at Langara College, Creamer decided to follow her heart and study art at SFU. “I always wanted to go to art school,” she says, “but I think it took moving to a place like Vancouver to realize that studying and making art isn’t just a self-satisfactory endeavor.”
In her 3rd year at SFU, Creamer opted to participate in an action research exchange, or ARX, in lieu of writing a paper for one of her upper division classes. Through her ARX, Creamer explored the level and nature of engagement that exists between students, studying at the SFU Woodward’s campus, and the Downtown Eastside community. She was particularly interested in exploring whether students who come and go to school downtown have distinct roles and responsibilities owing to the community around them (spoiler: she says they do!). Her project culminated with a one hour spoken word program that aired on CJSF Radio.
It was her ARX that lead Creamer to the Vancity Office of Community Engagement at SFU Woodward’s. Feeling a responsibility and desire to build more connections with the DTES community, Creamer began volunteering on a number of projects through the Office of Community Engagement; one of those projects was the Introduction to Contemporary Arts, or “Supercool Tuesdays.”
Creamer facilitates “Supercool Tuesdays” in partnership with the Portland Hotel Society and The Lifeskills Resource Centre, inviting artists (local and visiting) and a small group of Downtown East Side residents to engage in meaningful arts-based dialogue. It’s a project that combines both of Creamer’s passions, “being social, and being critically aware of what public spaces are and what they mean to different groups of people.”
The event usually takes place at Interurban Gallery, but Creamer has also lead the group on trips to local exhibitions to discuss art in the community. And while the topic of conversation at “Supercool Tuesdays” varies slightly depending on the artist and the participants, it generally relates to themes of space and accessibility.
The same passions that drew her to “Supercool Tuesdays” – being social and critically aware - have been the focus of Creamer’s personal artistic practice. She describes her practice as one that “looks at public space, is critical and site specific and collaborates with people, places and existing structures.” Through her art, she intends to inspire others to, if not talk about, at least think about issues that affect them and their community.
For example, Creamer placed vinyl lettering, spelling out the words “You Don’t Have To Go Home But You Can’t Stay Here” in parks and public spaces where she noticed some sort of intentional aesthetic barrier preventing people from comfortably sitting, leaning or laying down. She took photographs of the scenes, which she then converted into postcards.
Her current project, which she’ll showcase for her graduate exhibition in April of 2013, is a political commentary on land, property rights, and the negotiation of public and private space.
Indeed, through her art practice and volunteer activities, Andrea Creamer is innovatively involving residents of the Downtown East Side, and Vancouver more broadly, in an important discussion about the politics of public space.
Author Jackie Pichette is the Research and Communications Officer at SFU Public Square