Talking about Culture Chats

Event: Multicultural Arts and Crafts Workshop | May 8 @ 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm
Contributor: Asmita Lawrence

Canada has long been known as a multicultural nation and for newcomers, joining the larger Canadian community could mean risking aspects of their own cultural identity. But engaging with multicultural events provides an opportunity for locals and newcomers alike to embrace the diversity their community has to offer. In many ways, it is this very spirit that drives Culture Chats.

Founded by Asmita Lawrence in 2015, the Culture Chats association has continually sowed elements of multicultural community building in the City of Burnaby. Culture Chats was born out of Asmita’s ambition to combine her love of arts and literature with her interest in multiculturalism. Starting out as a multicultural book club, holding regular meetings at Burnaby Public Library’s Tommy Douglas and McGill branches, Culture Chats grew to be a non-profit organization a mere two years later. Today, Culture Chats offers writing programs for adults, performing arts workshops, craft workshops for families and also runs a gardening project, among other programs.

This accelerated growth was made possible by collaborations with local organizations as well as the passion of driven individuals. Asmita is so dedicated to Culture Chats, her family now considers it to be her third baby. In addition, co-founder Fiona Stevenson has also been instrumental to the rise of the association, serving as a Culture Chats board member when it was incorporated as a non-profit, and continues to provide energy and support for the association to this day. Culture Chats has also collaborated with Burnaby-based institutions like SFU, Burnaby Neighbourhood House, the Burnaby Family life, and the Many Nations Mobile Art Galleries, which is a testament to the community’s belief in their work and development.

This year at the Burnaby Festival of Learning, Culture Chats maintains their mission to cultivate multicultural community connections through engagement with the arts. Artist Lori Goldberg is facilitating this year’s all-ages craft workshop, collaborating with Culture Chats to demonstrate how to create decorative art pieces using recycled or upcycled materials. This event runs on May 8th 2:30pm-4:30pm at Burnaby Public Library.

Even through the height of the pandemic, Culture Chats instructors found innovative ways to successfully hold art workshops. From their own couch, office chair or kitchen counter, Zoom workshops transported participants of all ages to ancient China as they crafted paper lanterns, and to the shores of South Korea as they stitched money pouches, and even to the Indian subcontinent as they painted Madhubani art.

With such innovative programming, Culture Chats seeks to build community connections amongst members of different cultural backgrounds. Burnaby’s identity is deeply rooted in multiculturalism and the varied programs offered by Culture Chats bring vibrance to our city.