Friday, November 6, 2009

100 Days/14 Shows

A short post long on numbers for those into keeping count (and/or accounts)...

This past Wednesday marked the 100-day point till the start of the 2010 Winter Olympics here in Vancouver. The occasion coincided with a new role for VANOC: strike-breakers. That's right, the provincial government is preparing back-to-work legislation for striking paramedics in the province, in part based on a document forwarded by Olympics organizers stating that in the wake of a likely escalation of the H1N1 pandemic, the government would either have to put an end to the strike or ensure that some contingency plan was in place should emergency health care workers potentially still be off the job come February.

Needless to say, this wasn't being played up in various symbolic ceremonies around the city celebrating the countdown event. Among those ceremonies, perhaps none was more weighted with significance than Mayor Gregor Robertson handing over the keys to the False Creek Athletes Village to VANOC CEO John Furlong. Media and invited guests were treated to a tour of of the facilities, and the rhetoric surrounding the whole event was decidedly more upbeat, conciliatory, and even congratulatory than the doom and gloom scenarios painted a year ago by the newly elected Vision Vancouver City Council, who upon examining the books, forecast a billion dollar deficit for the Village that taxpayers were potentially on the hook for. Now, it seems, things are looking up, with condo king (and contemporary art collector) Bob Rennie on hand to assure everyone that post-Olympics sales in the development were looking golden.

Today, however, we learn that the overall economic benefits of the Olympics for the 2003-2008 period have been much less than predicted by Games organizers and government politicians alike. As Vaughan Palmer notes in his Vancouver Sun column today, parsing the numbers outlined in the 4-part report on Olympics impacts prepared by PriceWaterhouseCooper, you eventually discover that the mega-event boosted both the provincial GDP and job creation by, respectively, one-tenth of one percent.

Whooeee, baby! Let's not spend it all in one place--like on wage increases for those paramedics, for example, or, heaven forfend, on arts and culture!

Arts and culture in this city was in fact precisely what I and 100+ other people were celebrating yesterday at the VanCity Theatre on Seymour Street, as we gathered there to witness the launch of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival's 2010 line-up. Full disclosure: while I was there as a supporter and fan, I also attended in my official capacity as a new PuSh Society board member, a role I am very excited about.

But just now I'm even more excited about the program Executive Director Norman Armour and his talented team of colleagues (including new Associate Producer Dani Fecko) have assembled for this coming January and February: 14 shows totaling 93 performances over 18 days at 11 different venues across the city, and featuring artists who hail from 12 different cities and 6 different countries working in at least 6 related disciplines (theatre, dance, music, film and video, installation, and multi-media). How about them numbers?

Or how about these, cited by Norman in his program guide message, and repeated at yesterday's event: "BC's arts, culture and heritage industries generate 80,000 jobs in the creative sector and $5.2 billion of annual revenue." In strictly monetary terms, then, art is a good investment, and would that Liberal politicians who've been anticipating windfalls from the Olympics that have yet to materialize pay closer attention to the wealth of creative resources we have immediately to hand.

Then, too, as those of us who listened yesterday to an excerpt from Stefan Smulovitz and Eye of Newt's new PuSh-commissioned score, to accompany a January 28th screening of Carl Dreyer's classic 1928 silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc at Christ Church Cathedral, were undoubtedly thinking at one point or another, there all sorts of other ways (aesthetic, social, political, ethical) that art's value far exceeds one-tenth of one percent.

The Festival officially launches on January 20th with a performance of Jérôme Bel's The Show Must Go On at the Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre at SFU Woodward's. The first chance to get a glimpse of this amazing new venue (even before Robert Lepage touches down in it with The Blue Dragon later in February), the show itself promises to be truly "spectacular": in its showcasing of the potential for emancipated response in live performance; and in its use of the talents of 20 dynamic local performers, some professional dancers and actors (Noam Gagnon, Billy Marchenski, Adrienne Wong), some not, or no longer (Jim Green, Max Wyman). Definitely not to be missed.

PuSh passes are now on sale. Visit the Festival website for purchase details, and for descriptions of all the shows. Or pick up a free program guide at any JJ Bean location across the city. For information on how you can become a member of PuSh's new Patron's Circle (and reap fantastic benefits in the process), contact our Fundraising Manager extraordinaire, Bobbi Parker at 604-605-8285 or

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