MEET SOPHIA SUDERMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE ABBOTSFORD ARTS COUNCIL.
Q: What is the Abbotsford Arts Council?
Established in 1971, the Abbotsford Arts Council (AAC) is a non-profit society, dedicated to developing and promoting the arts and culture scene in Abbotsford. We embrace accessibility. Essentially, the AAC is a grassroots approach to supporting the arts community in Abby, serving emerging and established artists from diverse backgrounds.
(Sophia at Kariton Art Gallery)
Q: Why do you feel that the AAC is important to Abbotsford?
The arts bring people together by fostering creativity, igniting ‘artist talks’, expanding networks, and creating community. For many artists, the AAC provides their first opportunity to showcase their work. We remove the barriers to entry for artists, frequently rotate exhibits, and offer free admission to Kariton Art Gallery, located at Mill Lake.
Cultural events are an important part of the fabric of our society and what it takes to build relationships. Different cultures are pulled together and engage in dialogue that may not have happened otherwise. For example, our last exhibit, Cultural Treasures, connected artists who shared stories about where they came from.
Another example is Atangard, a community project that emerged out of the transformation of the run-down Fraser Valley Inn into an intentional community for students between the ages of 19 and 35. Colourful artwork lines the walls of this communal living space.
(Atangard communal living space)
Q: What keeps you rooted in this community?
Like a lot of people, I grew up in Abby and have family here, but what I love most is the opportunity that is available. You could look at Abbotsford as missing a lot or seeing the opportunities to make things happen. The younger demographic has stayed here like I did, or moved back after spending time in more developed cities, recognizing that there are markets to serve. Jam in Jubilee is another example. It is successful because people wanted a music scene that highlighted different genres and supported local musical talent. They were receptive and this ‘derelict park’ became iconic for a positive reason.
Cultural consumers move to the city but the entrepreneur stays here. Together, we develop programs and create opportunities as opposed to competing to be a part of over-saturated markets.
Knowing that there are so many others who share my perspective, we work together to achieve our common goals.
(Sophia & Friends down by the river)
Q: What is your response to the opinion that there isn’t much to do in Abbotsford?
We have a lot to choose from actually, but we lack the networks to get the messaging out. See? Another opportunity for anyone who is in the media or communications industry. Personally, I like to spend time outdoors. Everything is easily accessible and close from the Abby Grind to the Discovery Trail. After a fresh snowfall, Ravine Park is perfectly silent and untouched. But, one of my favourite past-times is to sit by a fire down by the river. I need a break from screens and technology… to just spend time being relational again.
This belief that ‘everyone knows everyone’, often perceived as a negative, is a positive in my opinion. When you actually get to know someone, you will care about their success and have more shared experiences. We need people’s voices—their ideas and inspirations. It’s an exciting time to live in Abby.