Opening Gala Speech

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A few people have been interested in what PuSh Festival Executive Director said last night at the opening Gala. Here is an excerpt of part of his speech:

Norman Armour


PuSh’s origins 

Back in 2003 when Katrina Dunn and I founded the PuSh Festival, we did so because of a couple of fairly straightforward and rather simple ideas.

We wanted a festival that would challenge and inspire us as creating and producing artists. We wanted to provoke our colleagues to imagine new possibilities and to trust their own wild imaginings. We wanted to provide public and private funders a better appreciation of where the artistic community’s innovative leanings were heading—warts and all. We wanted to suggest to the media a wider context for understanding a sense of performing arts trends elsewhere that might parallel or complement our local scene. And we wanted to create new opportunities for touring, presentation and creation.

But most of all, we wanted to affect change, to make a difference and substantively alter the conditions under which the performing arts in this city were being sustained.

Nine years later, these impulses and objectives remain just as salient. Nine years later, we have emerged as a Festival that will welcome this year over 25-30,000 audience members, achieve well over 50 million earned media impressions alone and offer a good 150 events, and introduce you to work and artists from Canada, the UK, Germany, France, Argentina, Denmark, Belgium, Japan, the US, England, Scotland, and from right around the corner.

We have a board of directors that would be the envy of any arts organization with 18 directors, lead by our fearless president Peter Dickinson. We have a leaders Council of 25 members, a year-round staff of 5, joined by well over 20 contractors, and a volunteer base this year of 135, not counting the over 85 guides involved in our blind-folded tour project, Do You See What I Mean? And we cherish a wildly supportive and ever-growing base of individual and corporate donors.

The Situation

I was in NYC this past week to attend several festivals and an important annual networking event. It was there that I heard of the news regarding The Waldorf Hotel. Unable to attend the event on Sunday, I’ll do my bit here to encourage you to “like” the Facebook page “Vancouver Loves the Waldorf.” There is also a rally be held at City Hall tomorrow.

So, what is going on here? In the past year…. The Vancouver Playhouse, MusicFest Vancouver, the Hollywood Cinema, The Ridge, W2, and now the Waldorf. What is going on?

In each of these cases, there is a myriad of reasons, causes, events and conditions behind the challenges that have faced these organizations and institutions, which I won’t even attempt to do justice to here.

What I will say is that we are not looking at some form of natural law, a survival of the fittest, something inevitable or predetermined, “there go I but for the grace of god,” or “well, shit like that happens.”

We have to get out in front of this narrative. Both literally and figuratively.

We need to talk about—AND ACT UPON—what is needed, in order to sustain an organization—to succeed in this region and in this current climate. Increasingly what is happening is only a knee jerk response: at best, crisis management by a community gathering to help the fallen, or a medical emergency team attempting last minute surgical intervention; at worst, a medical examiner’s dissection of the supposed causes of death, or ambulance chasers listening into the local shortwave to know where the next crash scene might be.

One fact I know… this organization would not be here without the leadership shown by public funders, by the private sector, by an insanely collaborative group of community partners and by tireless individuals.

The other fact I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt: If we are not talking about the under-capitalization of our arts community, then we are not talking about the “Problem.” If we are not talking about and devising strategies to address the dearth of appropriate financial resources, then we are simply avoiding the proverbial white elephant. And whether it’s on the short-term, or the long view, everyone who has a stake in the future of this arts scene must contribute to answering this issue.

Mayor Gregor Robertson


Dan Mangan and Mi-Jung Lee


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