2021 in quotes: artists speak out about the pandemic, their practice, and their passions

One of the best things about the end of the year is being able to take a look back and see what people said

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      One of the joys of working at the Georgia Straight is being able to shine a spotlight on those in the arts community who fill us with wonder and inspire us to think about the world in different ways. For this year-end issue, we’ve collected some quotes from some of the artists who appeared in our paper in 2021.

      “I’ve been realizing a lot in the last year that art is a medicine. And we’re not going to get through any of the horrors that exist—whether they’re around the pandemic or around oppressions of people—without art.”

      —dancer and choreographer Ziyian Kwan

      “If you know what motivates you, you’re going to be such a better singer.”

      —soprano Measha Brueggergosman

      “To feel ‘otherized’ or to feel ashamed that we’re not enough…I was, like, ‘You know what? No! I’m going to call bullshit on that and say the fact that we can straddle two kinds of cultures is our superpower.’ ”

      —Punjabi Canadian singer, actor, dancer, and choreographer Krystal Kiran

      “I think this work is borne out of a form of pain—or scream—that I had to repress for too long.”

      —mixed-race visual artist Émilie Régnier on her exploration of hair and identity in a Capture Photography Festival exhibition called How do you love me?

      “It’s like a TED talk but without that lecture feeling. This is a true personal story. There’s no specific call to action or takeaway.”

      —Chutzpah! festival performer Ophira Eisenberg on her love of storytelling

      “I skipped school to go and listen to Itzhak Perlman. So then having this moment of conducting the VSO with Perlman playing the solo part—that was a really, really special experience.”

      — VSO music director Otto Tausk

      “When you say you love yourself, that’s an act of defiance. When you tell your children that you love them, that’s an act of defiance.… All of those things were taken away from us.”

      —Heart of the City Festival artist in residence and residential-school survivor Kat Zu’comulwat Norris

      “I saw a middle-aged couple kissing on a restaurant patio and I just wanted to capture that emotion in their relationship, the happiness. But I figured if I gave it a romantic title, it would be really sappy. So I called it My Mate Is in Real Estate because they looked kind of rich.”

      —Vancouver Eastside Culture Crawl artist Michelle Mathias

      “I want to speak as myself. I want to speak the truth. And I want to be brave even at the risk of making a mistake. Already I’ve had to toughen up because some people disagree with things in the book.”

      —Ian Williams, author of Disorientation: Being Black in the World

      "I try to find the rhythm in everything that I do and everything that I see, and I don't have a hard time doing that, because it's everywhere. You just have to be receptive to it."

      percussionist Sal Ferreras

      "I learned to sing before I spoke, so technically, I've always been singing. I actually was able to harmonize as a toddler as well, which is an interesting story about me."

      vocalist Janelle Reid

      “It sounds impressionistic and not so grounded in evidence at this point, but I do feel there is an impulse in our community to get as proximal as we can to whiteness. I mean, I feel like I’m—quite literally—biologically a product of that in some ways.”

      —mixed-race Japanese Canadian writer and filmmaker Angela May

      “I learned much of my art through a western lens, through western histories, so I think doing things in Tagalog or thinking in ways through a Tagalog lens allows for an alternative perspective, a different vantage point.”

      —visual artist Patrick Cruz

      “It takes a lot of self-discipline to keep training and to keep working your body and to keep trying to have your instrument in a state where you can be seen by an audience. And at the same time, it requires a lot of surrendering of control, of letting your vulnerability be seen, letting who you are be seen by people.”

      —actor-dancer Billy Marchenski

      "I was taking pre-law at UBC and I discovered that the world of the law was not anywhere as fun and exciting and as visceral as I thought it was gonna be. So I started taking theatre classes at UBC, and as soon as I started acting in plays in university I fell in love with it. And I realized, 'Okay, I'm gonna have to tell my mom and dad that I'm gonna be an actor.' "

      Mitch and Murray Productions artistic director Aaron Craven

      "I wanna make Vancouver as culturally rich as I can. There's lots of these different pockets of communities—the comedians, the poets, horror-movie fans, the burlesque performers—so I feel like we have a scene here, and we have the potential to make it richer. It's just a matter of people staying here and making it awesome."

      Rio Theatre owner Corinne Lea

      "The people of Vancouver are just extraordinary. And nothing has been clearer to me on how truly wonderful the people are than how they have reacted to this pandemic. People have been kind, people have at every turn tried to pull together and tried to do the right thing, and that just feels amazing."

      Chor Leoni artistic director Erick Lichte

      "I grew up in Saskatchewan, where it can be 40-below. Even if it's raining here [in Vancouver] it's better."

      Vancouver Art Gallery Audain Curator of British Columbia Art, Grant Arnold

      "We have many many professional artists—many dancers, actors, directors, and designers—so it's a very vibrant arts and culture scene. A bit of it seems to be unknown by many people, but we're not just a place where people come to shoot movies."

      Firehall Arts Centre artistic producer Donna Spencer

      "We see time and time again award-winning chefs, choreographers, writers, musicians, and everything in this city. I don't think it's recognized as much for its arts and cultural scene, but...on any given week you can check out a whole lot of contrasting shows and plays that are really first-class."

      Vancouver Bach Choir music director Leslie Dala

      "One of the things I love most is how [Vancouver] has enfolded and how it enfolds nature. This is by far the smallest city I've lived in, and so it feels like it still has lots of memory of the natural world. I mean you have orca's coming into the harbour for god's sake. It's amazing."

      Indian Summer Festival artistic director Sirish Rao

      "I mean, I'm a fan of gore, definitely. People know through my work that I do have a very dark side, and I'm very mysterious like that... So throw all the gore at me, please."

      horror director Gigi Saul Guerrero