Heather Lamoureux is a dancer, choreographer and an arts curator with a Bachelor of Arts in Dance and Business Administration from Simon Fraser University in 2014.  She recently received an “Early Career Development” Grant from British Columbia Arts Council to work at PuSh International Arts Festival for their 2016 season where she expanded her skills in curations, communications and accessibility. She is also the producer of the Firehall Arts Centre’s BC Buds in May 2016. Heather Lamoureux is also the founder of Vines Art Festival. The Vines Art Festival will take place at John Hendry Park (Trout Lake) on August 22nd 2016.

For more information about Vines please visit https://vinesartfestival.com/?page_id=146.

This interview was conducted on February 24, 2016 in a small coffee shop in Downtown Vancouver between June Fukumura and Heather Lamoureux. This interview is a part of June’s research project in Sustainability and Community Arts Practices. She is an emerging theatre artist and recent graduate of Simon Fraser University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance and Certificate in Sustainability and Community Development. She is also the Associate Producer of this years Vines Art Festival.

This interview delves into Heather’s artistic practice as a contemporary environmental art maker and curator in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Please note this interview has been condensed for publication purposes.

Q: What is the Vines Art Festival?

HL: Vines Art Festival is a free public art festival that creates collaborations between artists and environmentalists. The festival started last year at Trout Lake Park in East Vancouver and we had over twenty artists and environmentalists participate. The main intention is that all of the works are created on and with the land as inspiration. The art works are in admiration of nature, about climate change, climate justice, anything that relates to nature whether that’s an activist movement or simply enjoying the land. I want to create an artistic space that invites the public in and directs attention towards environmental issues. Each piece is performed on Earth-stages. Earth stages are areas that naturally look like a stage. For example, at Trout Lake there’s a circle of birch trees and when the light shines from the sun the trees reflect the nice shadows of leaves mimicking a theatrical stage.

Accessibility is another important aspect of this festival. Keeping the festival free of charge allows different types of people to be with each other. The festival attracts a diverse audience [and a diverse program]. Last year we had contemporary dance, music, visual art, theatre and performance art while therapists and environmental groups held workshops for all ages. We also host vendors who sell local hand-made products. This year I’m hoping to invite different Indigenous groups and the Downtown East Side community. Being in one space with different groups of people is definitely valuable.

This festival is really striving to be zero waste. I’m working on different ways to use the least amount of energy as possible. There will be performers biking to Trout Lake and we are going to encourage people to bring reusable water bottles. It’s not just the performances themselves that make the audiences think about sustainability, its also about how the festival itself operates with sustainability in mind.  

Q: When did you come up with this idea, and why?

HL: I was finishing business school and thinking, ‘What am I going to do [now]?’ That got me asking what changes I wanted to see in Vancouver’s arts scene. I was frustrated with seeing the same audiences at all the contemporary arts performances that I go to and thinking about how important creativity is to a stable life, to having a better society, and to inspire humans to be more proactive. I wanted to put art somewhere more accessible for people who don’t always go to theatres and galleries. So that’s how it kind of started. I really didn’t know that it was going to turn out to be as big as it did last year. Last year we had over 400 audience members attend the festival. I was imagining something where contemporary artists would be performing outside where the audience would engage with the land through the artist’s work. I was mainly wanting to expand our audiences in Vancouver.

Q: Where did the idea of an environmental arts festival come from?

HL: I started getting really depressed about climate change, which I had always thought about, but it started to be in the forefront of my brain. It naturally came about that since the festival would be outside we would think about our environment. I started to think I should be involving organizations that know more about the science because I can’t learn everything on my own. That’s where this idea of bringing in the environmental groups came from.

Q: Have the environmental groups influenced how you feel [or understand] about sustainability?

HL: Oh, absolutely! Even a year ago I wouldn’t really go to environmental events. Now I’m really interested in engaging with the environmental community. I think it has really informed my personal life and artistic practice. I have very little interest now in traditional dance pieces. I think I have a lot more to say now and dance isn’t always the best way for me to express myself. I mean I still love dancing but as a creator I’m more interested in making statements through outdoor performance art.

Q: What’s the most exciting thing about bringing artists and environmentalists together? What are the challenges?

HL: I think the most exciting thing is the networking that happens between artists and environmentalists so there is potential for future collaborations. My hope is that more artists become interested in making work about climate change. Uproot for example, doesn’t often see contemporary art shows, but they are now very interested and were amazed by all the art last year. I’m working really closely with them now because of that. I’m hoping that I get more sustainability groups and contemporary artists [involved] this year so even more personal connections can be made. I want to bring all these idea-makers together who want to shift things. Of course my intention is to talk to people that are not a part of the climate change conversation, but the other intention is to build a stronger base of people that are already engaged. I think it’s about creating a community. What’s challenging is that it takes a lot of time to make all these connections with people and have them understand what you are trying to do. You have to go to a lot of events and be seen. You have to keep meeting people and networking and that takes a lot of time, that’s my challenge right now.

Q: Some people might see art as a waste of time, especially in terms of climate change. For you, why is art so important in this conversation?

HL: My intention with Vines is to introduce the ideas of climate change in a gentler way than a rally or protest. The conversation is still serious but it doesn’t have to intimidate people like when someone is holding up a sign and yelling –which is very valuable –but this is a different approach. I’m hoping that there’s an intrigue that makes people ask, ‘What are they doing?’ when they encounter the art works.

Q: So do you think there is a particular kind of art that makes more impact than another? And how does art communicate the message?

HL: That’s always the question about contemporary art. If you go gentle will they get your point and how does that happen? My hope is that through the combined presence of sustainability groups and artists, the public will get the general idea. I know when I enjoy a piece of art it starts from a place of generosity. I think getting away from ego of how something looks is step number one. It’s about being process oriented rather than product oriented. And some people aren’t creating art for social change and that’s fine. It’s their practice.  But they probably won’t touch people in the same way that it does if that’s your intension. I think being educated about what you are talking about is another signifier of work that can shift people’s perspectives.

Q: And how do you know if Vines is really making a difference?

HL: I mean you can see the numbers but usually you feel the impact from personal feedback. I think it’s important to account that not one thing is going to change someone’s mind. You need to be hit by that idea many times before you are going to change. So it’s important to know that the art may be a catalyst for something else in the future. A nice thing that happened last year was this 84 year-old man came to the festival. I had all these public easels out so audience members could draw what they were seeing. And he came and drew things all day. He didn’t know anything about the festival, he just came. After the festival he sent me an email telling me how good the festival was, how good it made him feel and how it inspired him to create things and that he wanted to be a part of that community. It was really beautiful and touching. There are a few other people that I met because of the festival who I’m still in contact with. That’s really special that they want to remain a part of the community that we are starting to create.

Q: What are you looking forward to for this year’s festival?

HL: The big difference is the expansion of the festival. The Trout Lake day will be similar but we are partnering with Artists in Residency groups. The Artists in Residency Program is run by the Vancouver Parks Board. The City designates specific artists to create work in field houses located in different parks. The intension is for artists to create work with and for the local neighborhoods. ‘Instant Coffee’ is an example. They are a journalists’ group who are also artists. There are also dancers, film makers, lighting designers, and actors involved so it’s quite broad and interdisciplinary. I’m attempting to get these groups to present works two days before and the day after the big event at Trout Lake. I’m excited to see how the festival transpires over a bigger space in Vancouver.  

Q: Where do you see yourself and the festival in 5 years?

HL: I see it remaining really natural and quaint. That’s really important to me because big festivals already exist. It couldn’t get too big and still keep the main values of what it is. But I do see it happening more often and I do see it being in more parts of the city and in British Columbia as a whole. It’s more about the model of creating on an Earthstage and creating with the people around you and being able to run into art in the city. My intention is so that people run into performance art more in Vancouver and in B.C. communities. It’s not about being a big shebang.

Vines Art Festival and UpRoot will be hosting Earth Day Eve: Party for the Planet on April 21th 2016 at the Wood Studio (7 West 2nd Avenue, Vancouver). Come out to support the growth of Vines Art Festival, enjoy a fun-filled evening co-hosted by Uproot with live performance in celebration of our earth. We will have a silent auction, light refreshments and cash bar.

Performances by:

Kate Brooks – Live Painting
Malcolm Biddle – Singer in Dada Plan
Clare Twiddy – Singer
Marisa Antoinette Gold – Dance
I’Land – Reggae Band
Robert Azevedo – Theatre
Alex Thompson – Live Painting
Carolina Bergonzoni – Dance

For tickets to this event please visit https://www.picatic.com/event14578164349231037#/edit

Or check out the Facebook event page