Innovator Profile: Andrea Creamer

Jackie Pichette
Research and Communiations Officer, SFU Public Square

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 the Contemporary Arts. 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 Ladysmith, B.C., 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 endeavour.”

In her third 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 (DTES) 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 led Creamer to the Vancity Office of Community Engagement (VOCE) 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 VOCE; 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 Eastside 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 the InterUrban Gallery, but Creamer has also led the group on trips to local exhibitions to discuss art in the community. And while the topics of conversation at “Supercool Tuesdays” vary slightly depending on the artist and the participants, they generally relate to themes of space and accessibility.

The same passions that drew her to “Supercool Tuesdays”—being social and being 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 lying 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 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, Creamer is innovatively involving residents of the Downtown Eastside, and Vancouver more broadly, in an important discussion about the politics of public space.