Cultural Committee

The Fernwood Community Association’s Cultural Committee formed in the early nineties in response to a growing need in Fernwood to formulate a cultural policy.

It has always been part of the Fernwood Community Association’s original mandate to provide cultural space to the community and to encourage cultural activity.

Over the years the heritage building at 1923 Fernwood Road has hosted Cafe Sympatico, a weekly Blues Jam, numerous musicians, art shows, Reggae events, a meeting place of artists, and so on. There is the unforgettable moment when P.K. Page, an iconic figure in Canadian poetry, showed up for a poetry reading, put her name on the open mike list and got up to read one poem just like everyone else. There has always been an extraordinary amount of cultural activity in Fernwood, as the neighbourhood has always had affordable rent for low income artists. Indeed Fernwood is the cultural Hub of Victoria, as 1923 Fernwood is situated right in the centre. All spokes on the cultural wheel emanate outward from there.

The only intact heritage village, close to downtown Victoria, is the neighbourhood which forms the core of Fernwood. At the heart of Fernwood village is the building at 1923 Fernwood Road. This has long been an underestimated area, with the potential to blossom into an exciting cultural centre. The Cultural Committee was formed in order to promote the vibrant culture of Fernwood which is home to many artists, writers, theatrical and musical performers, to provide reasonably priced space for workshops, classes, rehearsals, and to fill the need for a small performance venue, with the Fernwood Community Association as custodians. It is the only venue of its kind in Victoria, so its importance to the community cannot be stressed enough. One of the primary identifiable needs in Victoria has been a small venue performance space, and currently this building is the only one which fits the bill. With its casual ambiance and inner-city chic it serves a broad spectrum of eccentric and unusual groups.

One of the important developments has been the relationship with Theatre Inconnu, with Clayton Jevne as artistic director. Theatre Inconnou already has a thirty year history in theatre in Victoria, both as a touring and as local company. They have a long and remarkable career, especially when they were housed in their Market Square location, of producing adventurous theatre. Already they have produced the important play The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, and had the world premier in English of Slomar Mrozek’s play The Ambassador. Mrozek is one of the world’s great literary figures, like Beckett or Ionesco, and to have the world premier of a new Mrozek play in Fernwood is quite significant and connects Fernwood to the international community. Out of the local and the particular comes the global and the universal. This is a very important, yet arms length relationship, in which both groups, the Fernwood Community Association and Theatre Inconnu flourish.

Another important tenant of the FCA is the Pandora Arts Collective Society. PACS is a registered charity created by individuals who, together with community allies, have built a place, time and resources where their work in the arts supports individual health and a growing, creative community. Indirectly deriving its name from nearby Pandora street, a community that is a focal point for many of the aspirations and challenges of Victoria’s inner city, PACS was formed after an original government funded art therapy program, called Pandora Arts was abruptly cut. Some participants banded together to form the new society, keeping the name Pandora as inspiration for hope. Combining a self-governance structure with active and visible involvement in the community, PACS supports weekly facilitated, self-directed studio programming sensitive to the therapeutic potential of art process and production. PACS is a working model of creative self-determination built up from a group seeking health and presence in the community. To learn more about Pandora Arts Collective go to their website.

The Fernwood Community Association is a volunteer-driven organization, only employing one part-time Office Administrator and a part-time Assistant. All other functions including active committees, governance, policy, and maintenance are performed by volunteers. The Cultural Committee requires your ideas and input. Fernwood is fast becoming a cultural mecca in the heart of Victoria. There are a great deal of activities that can take place in the FCA building: one act play festivals, theatre, puppetry, poetry readings, songwriter’s showcases, etc. If you have ideas or would like to have input into realizing the cultural potential of Fernwood, please contact us for meeting times and with ideas.

-Richard Olafson