A night of music, spoken word, and art celebrates Surrey.
Surrey has never been known as a cultural capital. It’s long battled the twin stigmas of crime and crippling suburbanisation, traits that seem antithetical to a community doing its very best to nurture artist s and their endeavours. But for more than forty years now, the Surrey Art Gallery has opposed the idea that art belongs only in metropolitan centres like Vancouver. It has both provided a platform for the city’s burgeoning artistic minds to promote themselves as well as given the citizens of Surrey a chance to experience the art that’s being created in their own neighbourhoods. Now, with their most recent exhibit, Views from the Southbank I: Histories, Memories, Myths, the SAG has chosen to celebrate the City of Surrey itself.
As an extension of the exhibit, the Gallery held an evening of music, spoken word and art that they titled “inFlux.” The event, which took place on Feb. 27, was an attempt to reach out to the young artists occupying the streets of Surrey so that they could gather in one place to meet, exchange ideas and experience the exhibit that’s championing their fellow Surrey artists.
“We wanted to do something specifically for the youth,” says Zerlinda Chau, a member of the youth advisory committee for the SAG and s a student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. “[inFlux] helps young artists to see that there is an arts culture in Surrey, and lets them know that there’s a place for them in art galleries.”
Along with the spoken word/hip-hop duo The Rupe and Puma Busking Experiment and local band The Star Captains, a number of recent and upcoming KPU art graduates were in attendance for the event, many of whom already have their work hanging from the walls of the gallery for the exhibit. One such Kwantlen student was 2014 Fine Arts graduate currently working towards her minor in cultural anthropology, Roxanne Charles. Charles is a Semiamoo artist is also a member of the recently formed and soon-to-be-incorporated South Of Fraser Inter-Arts (SOFIA) collective.
“[My piece] is looking at urbanization and exploring a disconnect, exploring a language,” says Charles, whose work entitled Surrey Urban Sprawl is made up entirely of materials she gathered from the city, including cedar bark, construction paper, copper, polyethylene, vinyl siding, nylon and synthetic fibre. These materials are woven together in a crossing pattern that feels reminiscent of a city plan, and in the top righthand corner of the work sits a mask which commands the viewer’s attention. “The mask stands for ancestral knowledge, the traditional knowledge keeper,” the artist explains.
In addition to having her work featured in the gallery, Charles—an artist as much renowned for her performances as her traditional work—was also invited to perform a piece for the inFlux event that communicated in some way with the work in the exhibit. During her performance she danced through the gallery space, singing in the Sencoten language and directly thanking people who were there in attendance.
“The singing translates to ‘Are you all right? We are not okay. Please take my hand,’” Charles says, explaining that she was communicating to the ancestral knowledge represented in her art. “If the piece represents consumption and urbanization, then my performance represents me, and all of us. Our path and our affects, what role we play in our environment. When I went around thanking people, it was a symbolic way for people to witness what they see here.
“This is the third such event that we’ve done,” says Chau, “And it’s been our most successful.” She went on to explain that she believes the gallery will continue to promote the work of Surrey artists and will keep holding events such as inFlux so that artistic youths, who typically work in such solitary spaces, can go on sharing their talents and their passions with one another.