Our Story. Our Journey.
Indian Summer Arts Society was co-founded by Sirish Rao and Laura Byspalko (who currently serve as the Artistic Director and Managing Director, respectively) to address a gap in Vancouver’s cultural landscape and to break stereotypical perceptions of South Asian art as ossified, traditional, and nostalgic. The founders recognized 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 the governments of the two nations. 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 DJs, social entrepreneurs to Bollywood stars, Indian Summer Festival has presented emerging artists as well as Nobel, Booker, Grammy, and Oscar prize winners on its stages.
We believe that arts events like ours have multiple critical roles in creating a robust societal fabric, and in combating prejudice and racism. The arts have an important educational role, providing accessible entry points into complex subjects. We were honoured to receive an Honourable Mention for ‘Breaking Barriers’ at the 2020 BC Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Awards. We believe that 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.