PuSh Blog

Donor Spotlight: Vanessa Kwan

November 20, 2018

Vanessa Kwan in Swan Song (for Cats), 2014 PuSh Festival | PHOTO: MICHAEL LIMIN

Our donors transform the performing arts in our city through their generosity. Leading up to #GivingTuesday on November 27, we are sharing a few of their stories! 

We spoke to Vanessa Kwan (Advocate-level donor), who is an artist, a curator, an activist, and so much more. At PuSh, we strive to centre artists and artistic work in all that we do and are grateful to have artists like Vanessa among our donors.

Vanessa performed in Swan Song (for Cats) at the 2014 PuSh Festival, a collaboration between Vancouver performance art collective Norma and singer-songwriter Veda Hille. It was an evening of cat-themed song, spectacle, and memory. Those who were there will surely never forget the gaudy costumes, internet cat video inspired dance routines, light show, and sweet songs.

What first attracted you to PuSh?

I think the first time I went to PuSh was maybe 10 or 12 years ago? I had graduated from art school a couple years before, and was doing performance art here and there. PuSh was one of the few venues that was programming the kind of work that bridged visual arts and performing arts, and through the Festival I was able to see international performance works that were exciting, rigorous and all out weird. I don’t recall all the shows that I saw, but I do know I became a fan for life because of those early experiences.

In your opinion, what is the most important work that this organization does?

I personally love the way that PuSh bridges established and emerging communities of artists. Having a festival that remains so invested in lifting up and mentoring young artists at the same time as it provides opportunities for established international companies is pretty inspiring. I’ve been consistently inspired by the ways PuSh privileges the relational aspects of arts communities, so much so that it informs how I do my own work as a curator, a producer and an organizer.

What performance works inspire you the most?

I love pieces that challenge assumptions of the discipline, whatever that might be. A few that have stuck with me: small metal objects (2008), Wallflower (2017), It’s going to get worse and worse and worse, my friend (2015), Winners and Losers (2013), Comparison is Violence (2012), Dynasty Handbag (2017).

What is your favourite memory at PuSh?

This might be too self-referential, but I really loved performing in an Andrew Lloyd Webber inspired cat unitard in Swan Song (for Cats) (2014).

What do you wish people knew about PuSh?

I think it’s important that people know that the generosity and vitality that you feel at the Festival is not something that happens by accident. It takes so much skill, commitment, hard work and intention to make a festival as sociable and productively challenging as this – and the PuSh staff are truly incredible at what they do. It’s pretty special.

What would you tell someone who’s thinking of donating to PuSh?

I’d ask them to think about the kinds of things that they value in a cultural community – for me it’s strong relationships, diversity of expression, challenging content and artistic mentorship – and see if PuSh is supporting those aims. These core values matter, and if an arts organization is allied with what you believe makes the world a better place, then it’s an easy decision to decide to donate.

If Vanessa’s story has inspired you, join our PuSh Patrons Circle today or make a gift on Giving Tuesday!