Arts Umbrella was thrilled to welcome three new members to our Association Board this fall. We were thrilled to get to speak with each of them about their journeys in the arts and what they are looking forward to the most about their tenure on our Board.

James Harry (Nexw’Kalus)

James is a Vancouver-based artist of Squamish Nation descent. His work combines the use of modern tools, materials and techniques to integrate the traditional with the contemporary.

What is your history with Arts Umbrella?

When I was going to Emily Carr, I knew about Arts Umbrella, just being on Granville Island all the time. My dad has been involved with a lot of projects around Granville Island as well. It wasn’t until much later, actually last year, when I was asked if I would be interested in either donating a piece of art to Arts Umbrella or being on the committee for the Splash event. So I decided to partake in the Splash committee and that led me to get to know a lot of people involved with Arts Umbrella. I ended up wanting to join and be a part of it.

As a practicing artist yourself, how do you see bridging your practice with a stewardship role on the Board?

I think it is always important to have a voice from the community itself, in terms of what it’s like to actually be an artist and a full-time practicing artist at that. Not many people know what that’s like so it’s nice to have that voice and experience to add to some of the more technical or financial aspects.

What are you looking forward to for your time on the Board?

I’ve really been an advocate towards bringing more recognition of Salish art because historically speaking, you look at a lot of [Indigenous] artwork and it has really been subdued to this point in time. Our voices have been silenced for a long time and we are entering into a time where we can start to have these conversations around it and really start to recognize the land that we live on. Arts Umbrella is such a leader in the arts and sets an example of setting a precedent for that in the artistic community.

If you could only take 2 albums with you to a desert island, what would you choose?

Oh, that is an impossible one for me but I’m sure the other people say that too. The Beatles’ Greatest Hits would be one. And maybe Eric Clapton’s Greatest Hits.

I play a lot of guitar and I play a lot of classic rock songs. I just love classic vinyl stuff.

Mike Mackay

Mike is the President of Strand Development, a Vancouver-based real estate finance, development and investment company.

What is your history with Arts Umbrella?

My history and my family’s goes back close to the beginning, if not the beginning of Arts Umbrella. My godmother, Nina Cassils, was on one of the first boards that Carol Henriquez formed to start and operate Arts Umbrella. My own initial introduction to Arts Umbrella was when I was 3 or 4 years old, going to the Early Childhood art classes with my mom. From there, I experienced different art classes and mediums through grade school, including drama and pottery. I had a great experience going through Arts Umbrella myself and it’s special to be able to share that with my kids and see them go through the same classes.

How do you feel your arts education supports you in the work you do now?

I use a lot of what Arts Umbrella taught me and exposed me to, in terms of allowing me an outlet to develop my creativity, build self-confidence, and express myself through art.
In my profession (real estate development), every single project is an opportunity to be creative with architecture – with the built form and how you create the built environment. We shape our buildings and every day thereafter they shape us – as Winston Churchill once said – and I think being creative and expressive is a direct translation from my days at Arts Umbrella.

What are you looking forward to for your time on the Board?

[Arts Umbrella’s new building] is such a special building. Arts Umbrella finally has a space that is befitting of all of the amazing programs and sophisticated level of arts education they’ve created and it’s nice to have a built environment that aligns with that properly.
I joined the board because I wanted to give back to a place that has given me and my family so much. I also am very interested in trying to bring Arts Umbrella and the programming it offers to a wider range of children. Right now it is more important than ever, with COVID and the impact it has had on early childhood development, I think we need to get more of these opportunities to a wider audience so kids have better outcomes in their lives. Art can be a really powerful force for ensuring that.

If you could only take 2 albums with you to a desert island, what would you choose?

U2: Greatest Hits and Mumford & Sons Delta.

I love Mumford & Sons and the message they convey. [Delta] really evokes a great energy; it has a visceral impact with the harmony and lyrics. It’s just a great album!

Elizabeth Newton

Elizabeth is a writer, consultant, and Registered Psychologist with a PhD from Stanford University.

What is your history with Arts Umbrella?

I first got involved as a volunteer years ago with Arts Umbrella on a Splash sub-committee where we brought objects to local artists and personalities and they would transform them. I was so impressed with [Arts Umbrella] then and as soon as my daughter was old enough, about 2 or so, she started dancing lessons and she just loved it.

With all of that background over many years, I was delighted to join the board. I am a big fan of everything Arts Umbrella stands for and the impact it has.

Do you have a background in the arts?

Growing up, music was my main thing; piano and violin. I decided not to go into it professionally but music is the fabric of my life. I am also quite involved with writing as well.

How do you feel your arts education supports you in the work you do now?

I’m a psychologist so I’ll start with the brain: cognitively, and not that you think about this when you are 4 or 5, but there’s all this research on how art impacts the ways of looking at the world. Systems, logic, appreciation, teamwork when accompanying a choir – I used to play morning hymns at my school – performance (the nerves of it and battling it) and general respect for the arts feeds your curiosity and learning.

What are you looking forward to for your time on the Board?

If I can have a tiny impact on the organization and its mandate, that’s fantastic. Any moment I can have in the building feeling the hum of the kids and the dancers going to class and little kids in their art classes – I love that hands-on experience. I love that the organization is in a period of growth, especially with the new building; so many eyes and opportunities.

If you could only take 2 albums with you to a desert island, what would you choose?

Stevie Wonder’s Musiquarium and all the Rachmaninov Piano Concertos.

I think Stevie Wonder is such an incredible musician; so creative – and I love the richness and technical proficiency of the Concertos but also the beauty of the slow movements and I don’t get bored. If I could sneak in another one I would also take Mozart’s Requiem but that might be a bit dire if I’m stranded on a desert island!