In the 1970s, when North Van Arts Director, Nancy Cottingham-Powell was growing up on the North Shore, people went to Downtown Vancouver for their culture. These days, we’re much better-served. And when MONOVA: Museum of North Vancouver opens in the revitalized Shipyards District this year, we’ll join North Van Arts, the Polygon Gallery, and a whole host of other arts, heritage and cultural organizations in providing inspiring cultural experiences on the North Shore.
Thanks to North Van Arts, we now have an online tool that brings all of this information together in one place: the North Shore Culture Compass. It’s never been easier to stay informed about all the arts, heritage and cultural amenities and experiences we have available to us close to home.
A Tool for Community
When Nancy and I Zoomed to discuss the Culture Compass, I asked her why North Van Arts undertook this major project, which attracted two substantial federal grants. Nancy said simply, “People don’t know the value of what they can’t see.” Knowing the breadth and depth of culture in a community leads to valuing cultural assets more. More broadly, our sense of place affects our well-being and can strengthen our attachment to our community, and even contribute to our desire to make it more sustainable and just.
The North Shore Culture Compass is also a tool for organizations to increase their visibility to each other, to forge partnerships and collaborations that amplify their impact on our community. When organizations like MONOVA, North Van Arts and the Polygon (to name a few!) deepen their relationships, they can ensure more aligned arts provision across our municipalities and Nations, share knowledge and resources, and be more responsive to community needs, complimenting each other’s activities.
What is Cultural Mapping?
The process of cultural mapping underlies the Culture Compass. It’s common in cities when they reach a certain size, and is normally done by the municipalities themselves. Staff at North Van Arts recognized that the North Shore represents a special case, with three municipalities and two First Nations. Research revealed that no plans existed to map the North Shore’s culture, but that many organizations would benefit from it.
The North Van Arts team’s extensive research revealed a few key requirements for their project: the Culture Compass needed to be dynamic so that it could grow and change along with the cultural ecosystem of our community, rather than being a snapshot that quickly became old news.
They also recognized that success depended on a very broad representation of community members in the development of the tool. An Advisory Committee was established, including a wide cross-section of people from the areas of arts and culture, heritage (including our former Assistant Director, Shirley Sutherland), libraries, local school districts, tourism, the private sector, First Nations, multicultural associations, and the municipalities.
The development of these relationships has led to many successes: North Van Arts worked with the District of West Vancouver to map public art in the municipality enabling them to create an ongoing maintenance plan, and Nancy was invited to participate in the North Shore Immigrant Inclusion Partnership. Her participation means that newcomers to North Van have greater access to cultural opportunities and the perspectives she received there shone a spotlight on how the Culture Compass can contribute to increased equity and inclusiveness in our community.
Partnerships with Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations
The story of the North Shore isn’t complete without the cultural life and history of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. North Van Arts worked with the Nations to develop a respectful process of identifying and approving listings that originate from their communities and focus on their own priorities.
Since 2016, they’ve worked with Tsitsayxemaat Rebecca Duncan, who has shared stories, connected them with other community members and knowledge keepers, and identified animal names and place names. Her daughter, Janice Chamiya Campbell, recorded audio files so Culture Compass users can learn to pronounce these place names, as they have long been called. Before place names and listings for the Nation are added to the map, they are approved by Samaya Jardey, Director of Language & Cultural Affairs for the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation. The icon for the First Nations category was designed by səlilwətaɬ artist and activist Shḵwen̓ Ocean Hyland.
“Recognizing and acknowledging that the North Shore is part of the unceded territory of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and səlilwətaɬ people who have lived on this land for millennia, and by showing their place names on the land as well as within the colonial municipalities that have been superimposed on the land, we hope to show a visual representation of truth.” – Michelle Richard, North Van Arts
What’s Next for the Culture Compass
Keep your eye on the Culture Compass because North Van Arts staff are always adding new elements. They’re currently in the process of selecting a First Nations artist to create animal imagery to illustrate the paw prints on the map. They’re also developing treasure hunts for Heritage Week (February 15-22) and various educational tools and activations that use the Culture Compass as a springboard for deeper community engagement.
Check out the North Shore Culture Compass to start exploring! And be sure to follow them on their social media channels to stay up-to-date.
– Sarah Mosher, 12 February 2021
We rely on contributions, monthly or one-time gifts, to help MONOVA safeguard and expand our community’s archival and museum collections, build learning experiences and inspire future generations.
Donations are accepted through the Friends of the North Vancouver Museum & Archives Society, Registered Charity No. 89031 1772 RR0001.
We respectfully acknowledge that MONOVA: Museum and Archives of North Vancouver is located on the traditional lands of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations, whose ancestors have lived here for countless generations. We are grateful for the opportunity to live, work and learn with them on unceded Coast Salish Territory.