Article by Amy Cheng
Photos Courtesy of Noriko Nasu-Tidball
With different paces of life and activities, it is far too common for different generations to live in their own so-called “separate lives,” even if they were living together. Grandparents who are usually alone during the day may feel detached from their grandchildren who are more likely to spend most of their time online than to interact face-to-face with their family members.
This has greatly limited our opportunities in nurturing cross-age connections and understanding. We would hope to think that the issue of a generational gap is not as prevalent. And yet, many of our activities are divided by age group, more so than ever before. How many of us have actually taken steps to consciously narrow the gap?
Vancouver Arts Colloquium Society (VACS) is taking the lead to address the growing gap by launching an “Intergenerational Creativity” Project, federally funded and supported by many community organizations including our very own Kerrisdale Community Centre (KCC). This project has been created to promote mutual understanding and respect across generations through art-driven activities, and to flesh out the varying gifts and resources that both the young and the old can give one another.
On May 1st, 2015, the project officially launched its kick-off event at the KCC as a pilot site where we were joined by people of all ages and background. I have been recruited to this project as youth member and I have to say, it was extremely heartwarming to see everyone seated together and genuinely shared their passion and vision about ways to transcend the limitations society has place upon us. And eager participants, such as myself, could only relished and warmed up to the many inspirations and ideas that filled the room to the brim.
The event kicked off with a lively discussion of three interconnected themes, led by a distinct group of facilitators that comprised of artists, teachers, and urban farmers, and in turn, the participants were able to reflect and dance to the discussions based on the visions and ideas presented.
The first theme, titled Creative Placemaking: Transforming Untapped Spaces, asked of us to consider the importance of paying particular attention to the physical, cultural, and social identities that define a place where we live. More than just promoting better urban design, placemaking is an effective tool to build a stronger community and culture by capitalizing on local community’s asset, inspiration, and potential.
This idea of bringing everyone together resonated with the vision of Ari Lazer, a powerhouse speaker, storyteller, and playwright who has a great passion for exploring the ways the world around us grows. And his vision rests with an examination of how the patterns of nature can create a central space for gathering.
This is an excitement that everyone cannot help but share. For Patrick McGuire, this was especially true. Patrick is an unconventional teacher who wants people to see and notice the different ways we live amongst one another, and for people to truly discover and embrace their individuality. And so, he was delighted to see everyone’s growing energy and interest in coming together and bringing a variety of skills, knowledge, and curiosity to successfully build a closer knit society that exceeds all boundaries.
As members in our society, we should advocate for a space that provides us with a sense of place and belonging, to cultivate creativity and individuality, and to enrich social cohesion and interactions for all ages—allowing us to create and sustain bonds for a better community. And this allows us to do exactly that, which also serves as a good reminder that the world we live in is no less than the creativity within our minds.
Another approach in bringing people together was the discussion on the digital world and its relation to us. The second theme entitled Untold Stories: Making Movies By and About Community was presented by Oliver Hockenhull, a seasoned filmmaker and writer.
Oliver greatly expressed his support for us to engage with our local stories, to allow people to reevaluate and reflect on their pasts, to share their history, and to pass on their values and wisdom. In this way, we can each encourage a better understanding and appreciation that supports both unity and diversity in our society.
Although Kevin Spenst, another facilitator, was unable to attend, Oliver certainly conveyed on his part, the way media can be a rich medium for a reflection on human nature and personal history, as it gives us a window into what makes an individual so different, and yet the same as the rest of us.
This theme has undeniably challenged us, certainly for me, to reflect on the worth of visuals as it embodies and captures the essence within us—telling stories about who we are and our communities. Visuals then become a record of our expression. A language that allows us to engage and speak to each other across generations.
I’m sure with these efforts yielding, little by little, our barriers will be faltering.
Being a happy participant of this discussion, I was amazed to hear of an upcoming plan to create a communal blanket that will echo the basis of quilting, where diverse pieces come together to form a whole—which I believe can be understood as an extended metaphor of colourful individuals converging and building a community. Resonating with the idea that a community is like an exquisite patchwork quilt that binds us together, with our stories and histories being the set of stitches that connects the very fabric of our society.
I believe a community of people and their relationship to one another is not about where you work. It is about who you are, where you live, your stories, and how people can connect on these levels. It is about taking time for yourself to explore new passions and learn from others. It’s about getting inspired and getting unstuck in our ways of connecting and communicating with our neighbours and our community. It’s about meeting new people and just taking some time off.
This is how this project can bring about a community that allows a sense of belonging, where we can come together to share, to listen, and to learn from each other, regardless of age.
Although the kick-off event has ended, our vibrant visions certainly have not. We will continue our efforts and workshops to create a space, a language, a story that emphasizes the value of bridging generational gaps and transgressing beyond what a community really stands for—a place that harvests the knowledge and imagination of each generation and creates an interconnecting web of appreciation, individuality, and unity.
So, come join us in our upcoming workshops and meet-ups and let’s start crossing that bridge to close that unsightly chasm that stands within our path.
Let’s grow together.