A festival for the curious mind
“Our vision is for an inclusive, diverse, and culturally-rich society.”
Indian Summer Arts Society
Indian Summer Arts Society is a not-for-profit secular arts organization and registered charity based in Vancouver on the unceded Coast Salish territories of the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), and xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations. We present some of Vancouver’s most distinctive arts + culture events as part of our annual Indian Summer Festival, and ISF+ events we present in collaboration with our community and cultural partners. We strive to be loving and fierce, with an audacious curatorial punch that dismantles walls, plays with ideas and provokes necessary dialogue and debate. In doing this, we believe in the transformative power of the arts, and their ability to offer society’s most renewable resource: hope.
An inclusive, diverse, and culturally rich society that values the transformative power of the arts.
Indian Summer offers multi-art experiences of exceptional caliber, thoughtfully curated through a South Asian lens. We connect rich and complex pasts with the emerging future, delighting audiences while provoking necessary dialogue and debate.
A Statement of Values
We are in service of joyful gathering
Exuberance and delight are essential. We envision our work as a feast for the senses, as an invitation to a long table where new friendships are formed and old friends meet.
We uphold art as deep medicine
Art is a healing and transformative force. We reignite opportunities for immersion in one’s culture and that of others.
We provoke with tenderness
We partner with our audiences to create spaces for free and proud expression. We give sanctuary to difficult conversations.
We believe in radical hospitality
Our success lies in the strength of relationships and in building brave places of welcome. We support people to be their diverse selves in the spaces we create.
We cherish artists and arts workers
Safety comes in many forms. Nourishing work includes safe conditions, paying artists fairly, and ensuring that arts workers have sustainable livelihoods.
We work with an intense awareness of place
We know that lands and people meet in complex ways. We invite people to explore a textured and nuanced sense of ‘home’ – be it Turtle Island, ancestral homelands, or this planet.
Our Story, Our Journey
Indian Summer Arts Society was founded to address a gap in Vancouver’s cultural landscape and to break stereotypical perceptions of South Asian art as ossified, traditional, and nostalgic. The society recognizes the need to center contemporary South Asian arts and voices (both local and international) and provide forums for critically engaging conversations and collaborations in Vancouver.
The inaugural year of the festival (2011) coincided with the year of India and Canada as declared by both governments. This was an opportunity for ISF to start a new narrative around the relationship between Canada and India. The festival has since grown to serve as a meeting place for many more cultures and has seen a programmatic evolution from an expression of diasporic South Asian identity in British Columbia to its current shape as a festival that takes a decidedly pluralistic approach, welcoming and exploring issues that lie at the intersections of multiple communities, through a South Asian lens.
Widely acknowledged as the pre-eminent presenter of South Asian arts and ideas in Canada, the festival believes in the transformative power of the arts to build bridges and foster dialogue. Each year, the festival presents provocative arts events that feature some of the finest artists and visionaries from Canada, South Asia, and beyond. From novelists to performance artists, social changemakers to movie stars, Indian Summer Festival has presented emerging artists as well as Nobel, Booker, Grammy, Juno, and Oscar prize winners on its stages. Now heading into our 13th festival year, we have successfully delivered nine years of in-person festivals, two years of pandemic digital editions, and back to in-person again in 2022.
Arts events like ours have multiple critical roles in creating a robust societal fabric, and in combating prejudice and racism. Our festival always has a strong discursive line running alongside the conceptual, by way of panels, ideas series, and artist talks, supported by a distinct curatorial theme each year. We act as a vital contributor to Vancouver, positioning the city as a dynamic harbour of international ideas and global perspectives.
- ‘Honourable Mention’ for our work in ‘Breaking Barriers’ at the BC Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Awards, 2020.
- Lt. Governor’s Arts and Music Awards, 2022
- Lifetime Achievement Award (to our co-founders), Hari Sharma Foundation, 2022, for contributions to the cultural fabric of our community.
ISF was featured by Charlie Smith in the Georgia Straight in an article ‘‘Vancouver festivals elevate cultural awareness and empathy and help counter growing xenophobia’. Culturally diverse perspectives foster innovation, resilience, empathy and cultural wellbeing. To us these are not abstract concepts; the outcome of our work is the wellbeing and cooperation of the community at a systemic level.
ISAS was co-founded by Sirish Rao and Laura Byspalko, who served as Artistic Director and Managing Director respectively for the organisation’s first twelve years. Following a year-long succession planning process, the Board invited existing senior members of the team Pawan Deol (formerly Producer) and Laura June Albert (formerly Development and Community Initiatives Manager) to take on shared leadership of ISAS. We are proud to have a team of experienced professionals who bring with them an unrivalled level of creativity, enthusiasm, and knowledge.