We The City: An Evening at the Centre

Arts + Culture, 2015, Summit We the City, Cities, Community Building

SFU Public Square, in partnership with Vancity present We The City: An Evening at the Centre, an engaging and interactive celebration of the important role that arts and culture play in reflecting and shaping the fabric of our cities.

Candy ChangTeju Cole, and Buffy Sainte-Marie provided compelling talks and Mo Dhaliwal guided us through the signature event of the 2015 Community Summit.

Cities are a reflection of our human needs and values. We The City considered how the arts create, reveal, critique and enhance the identity of our urban centres and powerfully foster connection, incite social change and build capacity for healthy communities.

SFU Public Square is proud to have Vancity as the presenting sponsor of our 2015 Community Summit signature event. Vancity is a financial co-operative and a global leader in their values-based approached to building healthy sustainable communities.

Wed, 04 Nov 2015

7:00 p.m. (PT)

The Centre for Performing Arts in Vancouver
777 Homer Street, Vancouver BC

SFU 50th Logo

About We the City

From October 30 to November 7 of 2015, SFU Public Square hosted its fourth annual Community Summit. Through a series of imaginative and interactive events, we explored the theme of city-building. We reflected on the important role of creativity, arts and culture in building and sustaining our cities and our neighbourhoods. By profiling the increasing pressure facing municipalities by surging urbanization and considering what attracts and holds people to our urban centres, we reminded residents of the power they hold to shape their city. Together, we deliberated on possible futures where everyone can not only survive, but also thrive. We invigorated the public conversation on how people can connect with their cities, find their voice, and enjoy increased participation in civic life.

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Candy Chang

Candy Chang is a Taiwanese-American artist who challenges the conventional perception of public space and the role it can play in our evolving needs as a community and as individuals. Renowned for interactive public installations that provoke civic engagement and emotional introspection, her work has examined issues from criminal justice and the future of vacant buildings to personal aspirations and anxieties.

Teju Cole

Teju Cole is a writer, art historian, and photographer. He is the Distinguished Writer in Residence at Bard College and photography critic of the New York Times Magazine. He has lectured widely, from the Harvard Graduate School of Design to Twitter Headquarters, and gave the 2014 Kenan Distinguished Lecture in Ethics at Duke University. He was awarded the 2015 Windham Campbell Prize for Fiction.

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie is an Academy Award winner whose audacious attitude to life on and off the stage has inspired people around the world for over four decades. Not one to rest on her accomplishments, Buffy Sainte-Marie has never stopped channelling her infinite musical and artistic creativity. As one of the most spellbinding artists of our time, she gracefully combines a high energy stage presence with cerebral songs that tell powerful stories. 

Mo Dhaliwal

Mo Dhaliwal is a Director of Strategy at Skyrocket in Vancouver. As a patron of the arts and producer of cultural events, he has invested thousands of volunteer hours to cultural projects, most notably through the creation of the Vancouver International Bhangra Celebration Society (VIBC). In 2012, Mo was recognized for his contributions by Business for the Arts as the national recipient of the Arnold Edinborough Award, and in 2013 was the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

In the News

We The City celebrated how the arts shape our city — Dara Hill, The Peak (November 13, 2015)

Buffy Sainte – Marie on her Polaris win, music and the election — On the Coast, CBC News (November 7, 2015)

5 Reasons to Attend We The City: An Evening at the Centre — DH Vancouver Staff, Daily Hive (October 30, 2015)

SFU's We the City: 2015 Community Summit examines urban living — Alexander Varty, The Georgia Straight (October 28, 2015)

Win tickets to an evening with Buffy Sainte-Marie, Candy Chang, and Teju Cole — The Tyee (September 28, 2015)

Buffy Sainte-Marie still has a lot to say — Dana Gee, The Province (November 2, 2015)

Iconic musician/activist has a speaking date in Vancouver

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Aboriginal voter turnout was so high in the recent federal election that some reserves actually ran out of ballots.

Buffy Sainte-Marie, the iconic performer and member of the Cree Nation, says the election turnout makes her proud.

But she does adamantly point out that electing a new government, and a record 10 aboriginal MPs, is just the beginning.

“Indigenous people can do a lot to help ourselves if we do get out and vote, so long as we don’t just become colonial ourselves,” Sainte-Marie said from her farm in Hawaii (she won’t give an exact location).

“Corruption in government can happen anywhere. There are plenty of corrupt Indian politicians, there are plenty in every group because that’s the nature of contemporary politics — there’s a lot of sleaze.

“I wish our new prime minister every success, but no matter who you elect you have to follow up. You have to keep your eye on the fox that just elected to guard the chicken coop.”

Sainte-Marie has been speaking out since she arrived on the music scene back in the early 1960s, and she will be speaking out again Wednesday at the Centre for Performing Arts in Vancouver as part of SFU Public Square’s We the City: An Evening at the Centre, beginning at 7 p.m.

The event is a discussion of the importance of art and culture in shaping a city.

Speaking at the event along with Sainte-Marie will be artist Candy Chang, art historian/photographer/writer Teju Cole, and cultural event producer Mo Dhaliwal.

“A lot of people are kind of interested on my take on whether the presence of aboriginal artists on the scene is going to make the city a better place,” said Sainte-Marie, who spent five seasons as a member of the Sesame Street gang.

“My comeback is: ‘Do the non-artists of the city have any idea of what they are missing in not celebrating all the artists in Vancouver?’

“Because I never see enough attention being paid to either music or art in the schools and out of the schools, music and art at home. I don’t think the problem is not that the city doesn’t do enough. I think as human beings we don’t do enough to encourage art in our little kids.”

Sainte-Marie is riding a wave right now, thanks to her Power in the Blood album having scored the coveted Polaris Music Prize a few months back.

“I’m very, very smiley. It’s a great gift 50 years after I started,” said Sainte-Marie, whose many honours include an Academy Award and multiple Junos.

“I’m really very, very flattered and I’m kind of proud of myself for having come forward with a record that feels so true to myself. But besides being proud of myself, I am very proud of the record company (True North Records) for having got it heard.”

Power in the Blood is a reminder that the fiery Sainte-Marie is one of the most profound purveyors of the protest song, a genre that, aside from some hip hop, doesn’t get a lot of play these days.

“I don’t think the audience has been unwelcome to strong words. I just think that most people are just too chicken to do it — they don’t want to risk their careers,” said Sainte-Marie, whose activism got her blacklisted by U.S. radio stations in the 1970s. “The record company is scared, everybody’s playing politics.”

When she is not in her garden or reading, Sainte-Marie is working on a piece for the Toronto Symphony and finishing up a children’s book.

“I just keep busy in the arts, and then when it comes time to get on an airplane I go out and give it away to other people and see what they can do with it.”,

© Copyright (c) The Province

Further Reading

We the City Poem
By Andrew Petter, President and Vice-Chancellor (Simon Fraser University)

Reports and Resources

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Media Partners

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