The Story of Indian Summer Arts Society

The Story of Indian Summer Arts Society

“The world isn’t just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn’t that make life a story?”

Yann Martel, in ‘Life of Pi’

We’d like to tell you a story….

The story of a festival that began as an idea. On this day, ten years ago, Indian Summer Arts Society was registered as a not-for-profit. We planned to roll out a full-fledged festival just three months later, with no team, no funds but surrounded by a group of amazing supporters who wanted to help us realize what was at that point, still a story. 

The idea we shared was for a festival of brilliant storytellers. No matter the form – film, music, literature, visual art – the important thing was to create a garrulous long table, a place where storytellers from far and near would enjoy gathering, and sharing their art. A long table that people who listened to stories would be drawn to. Because hasn’t it always been about stories for us humans? Whether it is the early cave paintings of 25,000 years ago or the way that Netflix transfixes us today, storytelling is crucial to our very existence. 

Looking back….

We don’t quite know how we pulled that first year off, but we remember the magical moments that made it worthwhile. We presented Indian cinema icon Tabu in a landmark meeting with Booker Prize-winning author Yann Martel (Life of Pi). The film hadn’t even been released yet – Ang Lee was still working on post-production – but they’d both been involved in the making of the film. We remember Yann saying “Filmmaking is so different from writing. I just typed a sentence: ‘and then the ship sank’, which has resulted in five million dollars worth of special effects for Ang Lee”. But the greatest delight we encountered was seeing our diverse audience interact. Tabu fans were excitedly bringing anyone who hadn’t heard of her up to speed on her stellar career in film, and Yann Martel fans were furiously urging Tabu fans to grab a copy of Life of Pi on the way out.

The meeting of worlds….

It is that meeting of worlds in the room that has continued to grow over the last 10+ years. We’re so grateful that our idea has found a home on the unceded Coast Salish territories of the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), and xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations. We feel blessed too, to have built meaningful relationships with artists from the host nations – keepers of powerful storytelling traditions. 

Our vision….

The vision we have for Indian Summer Arts Society continues to evolve, but we remain committed to curating through a South Asian lens and centering the work of culturally diverse artists. And we continue to be joyful and celebratory as well as to provoke the tough conversations that we need to have as a society. 

– Sirish & Laura