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Tracks symposium serves up a cultural feast

Urban and rural events use art history to develop national dialogues

TRACKS: 7th Canadian Community Play and Arts Symposium. For more information visit

It's all about using art to interpret history, creating dialogue and addressing the cultural differences among Canada's indigenous and non-indigenous people through art.

That's just one of the goals of the 7th TRACKS Symposium and second hosted outside of Ontario, which kicks off in Vancouver May 10. "It's about bringing artists together to utilize the language of art, to promote and develop dialogues on the history of Canada, on the history of First Nations and non-natives," says Renae Morriseau, North Vancouver resident and member of the Arts Symposium Steering Committee. Morriseau, who is Cree and Saulteaux First Nations originally from Manitoba, used to work as a social worker in Winnipeg before moving to North Vancouver in the 1990's. During her time in Vancouver Morriseau became actively involved with Vancouver Moving Theatre, which is one of the companies taking part in this year's symposium. For three days between May 10 and 12 the symposium will be in Vancouver, offering various events ranging from theatre to dance to artistic works, all with a focus on retelling history and creating understanding through artworks created by both indigenous and non-indigenous artists. Following that the symposium moves to its rural location in Enderby near Salmon Arm for another three days, between May 13 and 15.

Among this year's lineup is a cultural feast called The Big House, hosted by Vancouver Moving Theatre Company and created in collaboration with various local organizations along with Toronto's Jumblies Theatre. The Big House aims at bringing together indigenous and non-indigenous people and artists to break bread and create discussion and understanding. There will be an afternoon of film, examining community-engaged art practices. This year's symposium will also see the launch of Train of Thought, a month-long train journey across Canada that makes stops at over 20 communities along the way exploring the different community-engaged arts in each. There will also be extensive exchanges of dialogue between many various delegates that will be attending the symposium, including community play producers, cultural thinkers, academics and educators, arts managers and community members, both indigenous and non-indigenous.

The lineup this year will also include some visual art works, created using natural mediums like wood and fibre.

Another one of the goals of the symposium is creating networking among artists of both First Nations and non-First Nations backgrounds.

"There's a lot of opportunities for networking, to look at how art is looking at these ideas of what they call, colonizers, point of view in trying to inform history and how history was interpreted and how art is being able to be utilized as a mechanism for change," explains Morriseau, who said any artist, whether indigenous or non-indigenous is welcome to attend.

Morriseau says that through collaborated art projects, groups of differing cultural backgrounds can work together and create understandings as a way of learning from mistakes made in the past and helping to shape a brighter more inclusive future.

"In particular with the symposium is bringing people together to talk about the strategy they used to put an engaged community art process for both native and non-native," says Morriseau.

Anyone wishing to take part in the symposium can find details on the TRACKS website,

There are fees to attend the events, ranging from $20 to $200 depending on whether those wishing to sign up are independent delegates, non-profit representatives or institutional representatives and what events they wish to partake in. Events in Vancouver will take place at the Ukrainian Hall in the city's Downtown Eastside, as well as at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre.