Electoral politics in Canada “doesn’t speak” to many millennials, according to Simon Fraser University student Tara Mahoney.
“It’s a generation who’s grown up engaging in technology on a constant basis,” the PhD student in the School of Communication told the Georgia Straight by phone. “So we’re used to immediate feedback—getting our needs met right away, getting our information right away—and formal political systems don’t work that way.”
That’s why Mahoney, who lives in Vancouver, is putting together Creative Publics, an art project that aims to engage young people and encourage them to vote in the October 19 federal election.
Between September 10 and October 2, the Tin Can Studio trailer will travel to SFU’s Burnaby and Surrey campuses and Victory Square. During four workshops at these sites, Creative Publics will invite people to create mixed-media collages inspired by election issues. These collages will be affixed to five-foot-tall, freestanding block letters spelling the word VOTE. From October 12 to 16, the resulting public art installation will be exhibited in front of the Belzberg Library at SFU Harbour Centre.
Creative Publics is an initiative of the Art for Social Change research project, Gen Why Media, and the Civic Renewal Lab. The Woodward’s Community Singers will belt out civil-rights-era songs at the two Victory Square workshops.
According to Mahoney, another reason many young people don’t vote in elections is that politicians don’t do a good job of addressing issues—such as childcare, “green” jobs, housing, and tuition fees—that matter to them.
“I think what gets young people excited is a visionary explanation or description of what the future could look like,” Mahoney said. “I don’t really see that coming from the formal political system. People have policy platforms they’re putting forward for the environment and that kind of thing, but there aren’t big, inspiring ideas.”