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The Importance of Art & Culture

The Importance of Art & Culture

Written by Wilson Wong // @everbraveca @calgarymovies

The importance of art and culture in our society is something I began to think a lot about when my eldest daughter entered first grade, in a public school, a couple years back.

I realized right away that public schools no longer had dedicated art and drama classes in elementary school. This was extremely troubling for me because art was and still is such an important part of my life and I can’t imagine a world where kids and future generations grow up without it.

Let’s take a step back a bit so you can get some context and see where I’m coming from. I grew up with the stereotypical “Asian mindset” that I had to be a lawyer, doctor, accountant or an engineer to be successful. Traditional academia is highly praised and rewarded in most Asian communities, even still in Canada. You may say that many of these kids learn music and art as an extracurricular activity but sometimes this is forced on them and these extracurricular are taught and practiced in a very routine based manner— much like doing math drills. When kids in this community grow up and say they want to pursue art as a career, parents will disown them for even considering it.

Ok, it might not always be that severe but Asian kids get told that they should know better than to have such thoughts. I have so many friends who graduated with business or engineering degrees just to please their parents and they still end up becoming designers or animators. I get it, our parents just want what they think is best for us but I truly believe that the culture is starting to shift for my generation. It seems that we are coming to a place where kids can grow up to become whatever they want to without fear of judgment from parents.

Lucky for me I came to Canada at a young age.

Things were, and are, different here and people value different things. Individuality is encouraged; having any sort of artistic talent is praised and nurtured.

In hindsight, I feel like I got to take the red pill and woke up to realize I didn’t have to fit in the same mould as everyone else. Later on in life I noticed that the society I came from really lacked creativity. Companies and individuals just copied what was already out there to make a quick dollar and most people followed what was on trend instead of creating their own personal style.

Growing up with the influence of two very contrasting perspectives, and through some of my travels, I’ve come to realize art and culture have a direct link to the vibrancy of cities.

A lot of controversy swirls around public art but no one can debate that it sparks conversation and even connection—a perfect example of this being the Peace Bridge along the river. Commissioned by the city of Calgary to famous architect, Santiago Calatrava, it is a hot source of debate and conversation to this day despite being built 5 years ago now. Whether you love it or hate it, it has opened up a dialogue around the importance of art in our city.

city of calgary credit calgary herald

Peace Bridge // Credit: Calgary Herald

Many cities are visited or known for their art and it helps to shape their identity. Lady Liberty in New York, the Louvre in Paris, the CN tower in Toronto, Granville Island in Vancouver— all popular art central tourist destinations but they’re also more than that. Art is not just expensive paintings in affluent neighbourhoods in metropolitan cities, art is murals and architecture and sculptures. Art speaks to everyone differently through different means and that’s why it is such a draw for people of every culture to observe. Canada is a cultural mosaic and English is not the only language spoken here but art is a universal language that can convey any emotion or story and bridge cultural gaps. In culture, art can help to define us as a society and build a stronger sense of community belonging.

I want my kids to be truly creative so they can become whoever they want to be and discover what they enjoy doing. We’ve now enrolled them in an arts immersion school and the teaching there is more experiential and the kids are more engaged in their learning. When my daughters come home from school they actually remember what they did that day and they want to be there.

That’s one of the truly great things about arts and culture, it asks for engagement, not conformity. Traditional academia says, “here is the problem, follow this solution,” and if the student does not understand that process, they are written off. Creative academia says, “here is the problem, how would you solve it?”  People are encouraged to problem solve with their strengths and innovation.

I wish more people were encouraged to think with the type of creativity that my kids are. There is this idea that art is not for everyone but that’s mostly a lack of understanding. At times it can certainly push the buttons and cause some discomfort, but the ability to provoke conversation is part of its beauty. So rarely are we afforded the opportunity in everyday life to be uncomfortable and discuss things we may not fully understand. Expanding our minds does not have to end after school is over.

And then there is the part where we can just look at art for the pure enjoyment of craft, creativity, innovation and wonder. This can be a spiritual experience to see or feel something that words cannot explain. I encourage everyone to be part of that creative process. You don’t have to be artistic but the act of creation is what brings joy and purpose to our lives. It could be drawing, painting, playing music, or even doodling. Taking time to engage your creative side is such a freeing feeling.

Radioheaded3, part of the 2015 Sled Island Festival, at the Big Secret Theatre in Calgary, Alberta.

Sled Island // Credit: Calgary Herald

Arts and culture have provided the basis for my personal, professional and home life. I can’t imagine a world without them and I wish more people understood how accessible they are. The Glenbow Museum runs free first Thursday’s from 5-9pm. Plus, nearly every theatre company in Calgary offers a student and senior discount. The National Music Centre features interactive exhibits and instruments if regular museum exhibitions aren’t your thing. Contemporary Calgary is a free art gallery that showcases contemporary art. There are countless festivals happening on a monthly, sometimes weekly basis in Calgary. There is something to see and do for everyone. I hope that reading this will inspire you to get out there and see all of the wonderful art and culture there is to offer and be part of Calgary’s creative energy.

shakespeare credit calgary herald

Shakespeare in the Park //

Credit: Calgary Herald

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Photo Credit: Fritzology

Wilson Wong is a creative chameleon. As a founding partner of Everbrave Branding Group, he has one eye firmly focused on helping clients transform their brands from good to legendary. As Marketing & Sponsorship director – and partner – with CalgaryMovies.com, his other eye is fixed on his personal mission to elevate Arts & Culture in Calgary.

If you are interested in guest writing for the blog please send an e-mail to: marketing@theatrejunction.com

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