B.C. Culture Days opens up a world of art and music in Vancouver

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      It is hard to imagine Publik Secrets’ bike-part-gamelan project happening anywhere but Vancouver. The portable artistic installation somehow melds this city’s environmental awareness with our two-wheel culture and an ancient Balinese musical form.

      But that only begins to describe the magical-sounding, multicoloured metallophone—one of many creations by a group that mashes visual art, fabrication, and music, almost always with a public-participation element.

      And that’s what makes Publik Secrets’ open house a perfect example of B.C. Culture Days’ offerings, happening across the city and province from Friday to Sunday (September 25 to 27). Through hundreds of open studios, workshops, and performances, the growing celebration seeks to shine a spotlight on some of the art-making you might never have heard about.

      “It’s about getting communities involved and showing the creative process and encouraging the public to participate themselves,” explains Culture Days coordinator Nazanin Shoja of the sixth annual event. “It’s creating that accessibility to the arts and reaching out to people who might not normally get involved in these activities. A lot of the events are arts organizations or artists opening their doors to give a sneak peek at their work or hands-on experience.”

      In the case of Publik Secrets, that will mean opening the doors of their new studio headquarters in a Vancouver park board fieldhouse in the East Side’s Hadden Park, showing people what the team has been working on and giving them hands-on experience with creations like the bike-part gamelan.

      “They’re fun, whimsical creations that are mostly built using found materials,” explains welder, musician, and designer George Rahi, whose Publik Secrets crew has made appearances everywhere from the Vancouver International Children’s Festival to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. “They’re mostly percussion, so they don’t take standard forms of instruments that people are used to. That opens up an opportunity: there’s a nagging place in people’s minds that ‘Oh, I’m not trained; can’t play an instrument.’ But these are wholly original creations that probably no one else has seen before—though some are modelled after Indonesian gamelan music.”

      Other materials you may see reimagined into instruments at the open house on Sunday, from 1 to 5 p.m., include pots and pans, church-organ pipes, and bike-tire pumps.

      As you’ll see from the roster at the Culture Days website, there are a plethora of similar hands-on events throughout the weekend—with materials that could not be more diverse. Over at the Oakridge branch of the Vancouver Public Library on Friday, there’ll be a scratch-animation workshop from noon to 2 p.m.; Cloudscape Comics helps you design a mini-comic at the Memorial South Park fieldhouse on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.; and Coastal City Ballet opens its doors for a ballet class and rehearsal from 2 to 4 p.m. the same afternoon at its East 4th Avenue headquarters. There are self-guided public-art tours, church-organ demonstrations, and much more.

      The best part, says Shoja, is that for all that’s taking place here on the West Coast, there’ll be thousands of other events happening simultaneously to celebrate Culture Days across the country.

      “It’s a volunteer-driven and a grassroots event,” she says. “I like to think of it like Canada Day, where they celebrate the country, but on this day we’re celebrating culture.”

      To really get in on the celebrations, head to Richmond’s Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday (September 24), where musical, spoken-word, and other performances happen at a free event to kick things off.

      B.C. Culture Days happens around the city and province from Friday to Sunday (September 25 to 27).