(Pictured above: Emily Neufeld, Prairie invasions)

by Marion Van Driel

For those of us unable to walk past a gallery without stopping, or to resist the latest plays and musical concerts, a discerning browse through BC Culture Days’ wide range of events provides an opportunity to feed our hunger for community, learning and beauty. The 2020 festival programming offers art and culture lovers an all-encompassing pass throughout BC and Canada.

Along with the arts, subjects include history, environment, immigrants, people-groups, food making and more, while family-friendly scavenger hunts, walks and creative endeavours invite kids to join the fun. Events will run for an entire month this year in a mix of Covid-safe formats with in-person, live stream, digital downloads and self-guided tours available between September 25 and October 25. 

A few highlights include:

Exhibition: Emily Neufeld, Prairie Invasions: A Lullaby (In-person, Richmond Art Gallery)

The great, great granddaughter of Russian Mennonites who settled on the prairies in 1874, Neufeld’s exploration of deserted prairie farmhouses during the summer of 2018 forms the basis of her photographic and sculptural exhibit. Born and raised in Alberta, Neufeld’s curiosity has taken her on a journey of discovery, probing the history of a Mennonite wave of immigration during the 1800s.

Who were these homesteaders and how did they live? Over time, what influences changed family farms to conglomerates or deserted landscapes? Neufeld searches for human traces in domestic spaces, braiding the strands of her identity, her art and her desire to understand the influence of change, into a colorful exhibit of intrigue. Neufeld juxtaposes the ideas of our nostalgia about these farms, in which we are often a lulled into romanticism of ‘the good old days’, with the reality of a hard, dirty, lean time of trying to eke out an existence. While empathetic to parts of the Mennonite culture, she is critical of the Mennonites (and other European immigrant settlers) regarding land takeover and use of invasive farming practices on that land with no consideration for, or consultation with, its indigenous peoples.  According to Neufeld, “The main thought in this body of work is: How are we good guests, or who makes a good guest or not a good guest on these lands?” While empathetic towards her ancestors’ plight – the oppression they faced in Europe and their need to make a living in a new country – she notes that they and other groups who immigrated had, in turn “no problem oppressing others when they came here.” She looks at the injustice of land taken from the indigenous peoples being used to procure wealth through agriculture, industry and urbanization.

On October 2, from 2-3 p.m., Neufeld joins in a live stream discussion with artist and ethnobotanist T’uy’t’tanat Cease Wyss, and KPU Farm School Soil Science Instructor Amy Norgaard about the ideas within her exhibition. The panel will discuss themes of injustice, local land use, how we impact the environment and how our relationship with a place informs art-making.


Come Sing With Us: Phoenix Chamber Choir (live stream)

Perhaps you’re missing the opportunity to sing in your church choir, and would love an opportunity to be part of a choir even if it’s a virtual experience. If so, you can be part of an open rehearsal and virtual choir collaboration through Zoom with Phoenix Chamber Choir for an hour of September 26, from 1 -2 pm. Artistic Director Nicolle Andrews has created a parody of Disney’s classic “Part of Your World” specifically for our current new reality:

“We want to be where the people are

We wanna to sing, wanna sing together

We miss our friends in our

(Whad’ya call ‘it?) oh – choir”


Participants will learn this piece of music, and how to record their part for a virtual choir performance. Anyone is welcome to participate, although those who wish to submit their video for the October 24 Premiere of the song (first Phoenix Choir concert of the year) are required to have basic singing ability. Skills for recording your part in a virtual choir could come in handy for future similar invitations. After all, Christmas is coming!


Art and History Walks, Cycles or Drives

            A number of communities offer self-guided walking, cycling or driving tours of their local artistic and historical highlights. Port Coquitlam’s tour includes colourful murals and mosaics, and beautiful parks and pathways. It’s an excuse for a day out to get some fresh air and exercise while enjoying the creativity and nature in this city. Richmond offers a self-guided cycle tour while South Surrey has created a driving tour to take in local heritage homes. Coquitlam has a week-long photo scavenger hunt to engage the whole family. These events provide downloadable (or handout) maps to mark the route.


Desiring connection

            Cancelled travel plans in 2020 have left many of us hungry for global discoveries. BC Culture Days invites us to foster connection with various ethnic and indigenous communities either in person, or from the comfort of our own homes. Cook, dance, sing. Taste, see, and participate to feed your soul.




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