On Sunday, I attended the COPETemporary Arts fundraiser at Chapel Arts on Dunlevy, near Oppenheimer Park. There was a silent auction of photo prints from a project where people living in the Downtown Eastside were given cameras and asked to take pictures of what was meaningful to them in their neighbourhood. There were also exhibits of art on the wall of the gallery, including one wall which had a large piece of newsprint on it, where people were invited to write what their fears were. They ranged from the personal ("fear of failure" "dying without accomplishing anything") to the political ("George W Bush" "Stephen Harper") to some that made me grin ("having to pee and no intermission"). There were felt pens below the paper so you could add your own fears.
There were also three different bands that performed, a jazz duo in the upstairs gallery space, and later on, the Nautical Miles, whose lyrics inspired the activist in me, and Company B, whose retro-harmonies rival the Andrews Sisters. I learned something from that, too – they sang a few numbers by the Boswell Sisters, a New Orleans trio who preceded the Andrews sisters. I went home and look them up in a jazz/blues encyclopedia; they were one of the first white women singers to take inspiration from what had originally been regarded as "black" music.
Afterward, I went home to check my e-mail. I posted some lyrics from two songs in response to an e-mail on a listserve that I belong to. Someone else on the listserve responded that one of the songs was one of her favourites.
This made me think of how The Arts allows people to connect. People in the downtown eastside can share their views of their neighbourhood with us, and perhaps we gain an appreciation of their lives. We can learn what other people fear and have a moment of introspection about what our own fears are, and perhaps find a common bond with the anonymous people who took the time to add their fears to the wall.
Music can set a mood as the Jazz Duo did, or inspire activism about issues, or allow us to marvel at exquisite harmonies and send us researching performers and composers we didn’t know about. We can share lyrics or a video with people who live a few hundred miles away, and discover that someone else likes the same song that we do.
This ability of the arts to connect us with other is one of the reasons that I passionately believe in expanding support for the arts in Vancouver.