Soul Sustainability

This story starts in Fukushima, Japan, on March 11, 2011. There was an earthquake and a tsunami. And a nuclear reactor melted down.

In 2013 six artists visited Fukushima, to meet and talk with people in Tohoku.

In March 2014, the artists mounted a show in Fukushima. It wasn’t to raise funds, or to help. In the face of an event demanding silence, the artists had no other response than to make art.

In May 2014, the entire Fukushima show was re-exhibited at the Lookout Gallery in Vancouver.

While plans for the show were underway, we discovered the Japanese artists were coming to Vancouver.

In order to learn from and build on the Japanese artist’s experience in Fukushima, Steve Frost hosted Soul Sustainability, an urban artist-in-residence program in which 5 artists from Japan spent 3 days encountering Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. 


The residency gave participants an opportunity to do the communal and creative work of attending to, recognizing and communicating embodied hope and dignity in the DTES. 

For three days we gathered in the historic Strathcona Church building in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. We held a mutual belief in the importance of East/West dialogue and learning in a post colonial world. Further, that artists are particularly equipped to bridge cultures by finding and navigating our common humanity.

We were at the edge of three neighbourhoods; Strathcona, Chinatown, and Powell Street. Neighbourhoods full of the forgotten stories of migrants on the margins; injustice, pain and powerlessness. In the midst of that—wonderfully, defiantly even—joy, beauty and human connection.

On top of these hidden historic stories is overlaid a current reality—stories of the poor, the addicted, and again the powerless. Narratives that are all but invisible to our city’s dominant narrative of production and consumption; scarcity and fear

On the surface it’s an abstract knot of problems waiting to be solved by experts who will finally solve the unsolvable. Under the surface it’s a connected and vibrant community, who, in the meantime, live in defiant fragile hope.

Collaborating together gives us a reason to sit and converse. Art gets made from the collaborating, at the same time a new version of ourselves gets made. The conversation shapes us even as we shape it.

This poem was written by George Hiyashi during the Soul Sustainability residency. It’s a wonderfully hospitable idea, that home is simply where I take the time to sit.

I’m Home
by Hirotaka Hayashi

We are always walking
We are walking toward our next appointment
Looking ahead
without looking around…
There is a man
Sitting down. Lonely.
His sad eyes are calling out
“Somebody look at me, somebody talk to me
Somebody sit with me…”
I’m looking ahead
And walking toward my next appointment
And, I’ve lost sight of now
lost sight of the important now
Later on, even though I try to find that place
I can’t find it…
Let’s be courageous,
and sit down.
Let’s make free time
And sit down, now, here.
Let’s sit down and be courageous
This is my home
There is somebody waiting for me
Let’s sit down and say
“I’m home”…
















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早矢仕 宗伯「はやし ひろたか」