Art. It moves us, brings us up, gives us something beautiful to share, and inspires us. Those who practice art (which ever discipline you were born to create) are unlike any other breed.
The Green Grass of the East
To outsiders, Vancouver is the holy land. Every image you see in the public eye of our fair city shows off our landscapes, our style, and our arts. We accumulate unique persons from all over the world. Most of whom are drawn in by the seemingly wide range of acceptance. Too bad it’s all a mirage. If the third party perspective of the relationship we all have with the West Coast is one of love and honor, why is it I don’t feel any such return.
This great place, to which I hope to call mine for the rest of my days, is home to some of the most talented artists I’ve ever met. Whether it be paint, sound, words, or putty, there is a drastically large number of brush holders in the six oh four. I know, as a writer, artists don’t much care for the support of other artists in their own field. Competition breeds the worst in some, and the absolute best in others. I’ve met – over the last year in particular – a slough of writers. bloggers, authors, purists, and anarchists. A lot of whom produce roughly the same flavor of material as one another. Its baffling. Not a fresh take in the bunch. When a voice unlike the others pops up, shows its face, there is a resounding echo of fly swatters whirling through the air in frantic attempts to squash the bug that in theory may disrupt the pretty pedestal these robots call home. The art cliques in Vancouver are brutal, and unwelcoming. Distancing themselves from others, it is unlike any other area I’ve ever been. For an entire community that is renowned for their appreciation of the arts, we’re not the most civil congregation.
My time on the eastern side of the flatlands proved to encourage all the angelic portions of the artist within. Toronto (and the surrounding burbs) was/is a hot bed of music and art, but on the surface they are tie-clad pencil pushers to the nth degree. Everyone, no matter the brand of music performed, rubbed elbows. We used to rehearse and record in a room that played home to some of southern Ontario’s most prized collection of bands, as well as a handful of top billing painters. Every so often, the group was so tight and compressed that notes bled from one amp into the microphone of another bands, paint would fly off the walls spilling beautifully onto the guitar of the fastest fingers in the aught years. We all knew each other. Greeted by a hug that ended in a kiss on the cheek, it was family. We attended gallery openings for the cousin of the bass player of Alexisonfire. We snapped at the jot rhymes strung together by the poet boyfriend of the singer of Boys Night Out’s little sister. It was more than family. We loved one another. We fed off the groups. We grew together. No matter the craft. Now I wasn’t aware of this at the time, but what Toronto had post millennium was astounding and unique. A real underground stew of talent. It is today that I feel it breathed only due to the fact that we were all stitched together. Because it wasn’t easy, or obvious, to be a productive artist in Toronto.
The Lower Vainland
On the best coast, it’s a different world. Art is not just tolerated. It’s celebrated. So much so that everyone you know, and their friend Steve is an artist. And all the power to them. The beauty of the world starts with art. However, for some strange reason, there is a level to the success you’re “allowed” to have here according to your peers. Maybe it is as simple as “too much competition”, prompting outrage and jealousy to cook up in a kitchen that doesn’t seem to be equipped to handle every unique dish. People are reluctant to support and admire those who stand in their line-up. To them, you are what is keeping them from the gratitude they deserve themselves. From a first person point-of-view there is a sea of people lining up to race, not a one standing on the sidelines with water to keep us going. I’ve heard it all in Vancouver. From fellow writers telling me “you’re too weird” all the way to publishers letting me know that “I can’t sell that”. The latter, being the most humorous. I can hand an important figure a well rounded short that is steaming with unique twists, and a voice that is unlike many other of my age/craft/continent. Yet, because it’s not identical the other jumble of indistinguishable mush they’ve sold prior to my arrival, they feel they cannot market it.
Those of us who find friends within the community only further tarnish the actual production seen in Vancouver. Like a bad high school drama, the cliques are like infestations of diseases. The warlords of coast see to it that no weaving between groups ever happens. I may claim to know a fair amount of Vancouver’s finest, but in true measurement, I acquaint with few. Meeting most through the first couple I originally bequeathed my friendship to. Friends of friends. Handshakes at the side of the stage in the Commodore. Rarely do we stray aware from the normal faces we find familiar. To hell with that idea.
Vancouver is the loneliest place I’ve ever been, regardless of the lack of silence. Sometimes, these facts are heartbreaking. But it seems there is an answer. Leaving. Since I’ve returned to this place, I’ve befriended more than a dozen extremely talented musicians/painters/poets/writers and every single one of them have seen return of emotional investment by vacating this beautiful city of ours. Some, have met success in Toronto. That sacred land of culminating great minds I spoke of earlier. Others, have left for similar pastures. London, San Francisco, New York, even Hell A. Our fascination with extinguishing the love for mutual artistry needs to dissipate. Or we’ll keep being just a façade of a freedom. More individuality, less unnecessary dream squashing.