TAIWANfest 2020: PuSh cofounder Norman Armour outlines key difference between Vancouver and Ontario art scenes

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      Former Toronto resident Norman Armour knows what it's like to go west to forge a new life.

      The cofounder of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival and Rumble Theatre reveals in a recent "artist talk" for TAIWANfest that he came to Vancouver as a semi-professional frisbee player.

      Armour also says he drove a cab for a dozen years. This enabled him to work his way through Simon Fraser University School for the Contemporary Arts on his way to becoming one of the city's premier performing-arts specialists.

      Since graduating, he's won a bucketful of awards and his work has been received an astonishing 37 Jessie Richardson Award nominations. He now works as an international development consultant for the Australia Council for the Arts.

      And in the first video below, Armour talks frankly about a key difference between the Vancouver and Ontario art scenes.

      "There is something about Vancouver where you could be taken on your own merits," Armour says. "You could be taken on what you stood for, how you acted, what you were now—not who your descendants were or how much money you had.

      "And that I found very freeing, having come from Ontario, which has a lot of sense of who's upper class, who's middle class, who's upper middle class on the way down," the PuSh fest founder continues. "And there was a sense of real possibility here that genuine action and genuine intent could be something that would be responded to on its own merits. Not by your name, not by how much supposed power you had or influence you had. But it was the value of your ideas."

      Video: Watch Part 1 of Norman Armour's artist talk at TAIWANfest.

      The capital is not money

      Toronto has more corporate head offices than any other city in Canada. As a result, it's easier for artists to raise money there.

      That's not the case on the West Coast, where there are fewer head offices.

      In the video above, Armour bluntly declares that "the capital is not money" in Vancouver's arts scene.

      "It's people and what they care about, what their passion is, and what they're willing to dedicate themselves and commit themselves to. And in Vancouver, you have to be ingenious. Nothing comes easy here."

      Moreover, Armour adds that Vancouver audiences are "very discerning". And they have a "really attuned sense" of value.

      In Part 2 of his artist talk (see below), Armour focuses more attention on Taiwanese productions hosted by the PuSh festival during his 14-year tenure as its artistic and executive producer.

      Video: Watch Part 2 of Norman Armour's artist talk at TAIWANfest.

      TAIWANfest and PuSh contextualize the arts

      Near the end of Part 2, Armour praises TAIWANfest organizers for their series of artistic partnerships in recent years with other Asian countries, such as Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

      He describes this as a "really remarkable approach", by placing Taiwanese culture in context to others in the region.

      In fact, he points out in the videos, the PuSh festival also strives to place Vancouver arts in context to the rest of the country and the world.

      "Why we thought the festival was necessary—and I guess, ultimately, that we thought the festival would succeed is—that Vancouver is that kind of city. That was hungry to see itself in relationship to something else," Armour concludes.

      "So for TAIWANfest to have another country to be in relationship to it, and dialogue with, is to me so like Vancouver."


      Many of this year’s TAIWANfest events take place from Saturday to Monday (September 5 to 7), but other presentations will continue to September 27 on the TAIWANfest Facebook and YouTube channels. For more information, visit VancouverTAIWANfest.ca.