Posted on January 26, 2022 at 10:54 pm

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Indian Summer Fest Founders Sirish Rao And Laura Pass Festival Baton

Indian Summer Fest Founders Sirish Rao And Laura Pass Festival Baton

Indian Summer Fest Founders Sirish Rao And Laura Byspalko Pass The Festival Baton

Jan 26, 2022 (Vancouver, BC) – After eleven years at the helm of the Indian Summer Arts Society, Artistic Director Sirish Rao and Managing Director Laura Byspalko will be stepping down from their roles at the end of the year to pursue new endeavours.

Rao and Byspalko co-founded the Indian Summer Arts Society in 2011, and have tirelessly grown it from a startup into what is now widely acknowledged as the pre-eminent presenter of South Asian arts and ideas in Canada. The Society’s signature offering, the annual Indian Summer Festival, has been a stage for some of the world’s most notable artists, in a roster that features Nobel, Booker, Grammy and Oscar prizewinners alongside emerging talent.

Many international artists, including the likes of Booker Prize-winning novelist Arundhati Roy, acclaimed painter Bhajju Shyam and legendary flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia made their first appearances in Vancouver thanks to Rao and Byspalko’s efforts. Equally, the festival has been a nurturing home for local artists. Rising stars in the visual arts world — Sandeep Johal and Jag Nagra have both held the position of ‘featured artist’ of the festival, and cross-continental music albums like ‘Jhalaak’ by Vancouver-based musician Ruby Singh with Sufi music supergroup Rajasthan Josh, were catalyzed at the festival. The Society’s offerings now extend to year-round programming and a ‘Culture Lab’ which offers local artists funds, resources and mentorship to provide crucial arts-based solutions for pressing societal issues.

“We founded the Indian Summer Arts Society because we saw the need for a gathering place, a long-table feast of ideas and culture that nurtures and surprises in equal measure. We thought we were building a small bridge that represented our own cross-cultural curiosities. But that’s the surprising thing about bridges — they can bring vast worlds together. When I first came to this city eleven years ago, I barely knew anyone here. The many people who have supported and nurtured this festival — artists, team members, volunteers, sponsors and donors — have become my community. I’m so grateful for that, and will continue to hold them close,”

says Rao.

“We’re immensely proud of what we’ve built, and as we approach our 12th edition, we know that it’s time for us to learn and grow in new ways, and give what we jokingly call our ‘first born’ the chance to do the same. We’re passing the baton at a time when the organization is in a stronger position than ever, with a fabulous team, a caring board, robust finances, and an incredible ecosystem of artists and supporters. We founded the kind of festival that we’d like to attend, and I’m so excited to soon be able to join the incredible community surrounding the festival in the audience!”

says Byspalko.

But first, the duo has the festival’s upcoming 12th edition to mount, July 7-17, 2022. The Society’s Board of Directors has struck a committee that is working on leadership transition with Rao and Byspalko. The plan is to have new leadership in place by the festival in July, with Rao and Byspalko remaining engaged until the end of 2022 to ensure knowledge transfer and a smooth transition.

Am Johal, Chair of the Society’s Board of Directors says, “Sirish and Laura have made an incredible contribution to the life of the arts sector here in BC — the festival has developed a national and international reputation. The work of founders in starting new organizations cannot be underestimated — it’s immense labour of love. The festival has truly made Vancouver into a more interesting city and contributed to giving it a more global perspective. It’s a testament to the vision and leadership of the founders that we have a bright future and strong organization to build from. We profoundly thank Laura and Sirish for their exceptional work, the gift they’ve given to the city and we look forward to ushering in the next phase of leadership for the Indian Summer Arts Society. But not before they stage one more festival in July!”

Those interested in finding out more about the newly created role of Artistic and Executive Director can access the candidates’ package at the Indian Summer Festival website at: indiansummerfest.ca/artistic-and-executive-director
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About the Indian Summer Festival:

Established in 2011, Indian Summer Festival is a multi-disciplinary arts festival produced by Indian Summer Arts Society, a not-for-profit charitable arts organization based in Vancouver, Canada, on the unceded Coast Salish territories of the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), and xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations. Its mission is to offer daring, multi-arts events that bring together diverse artists, audiences, and artists in a global dialogue and citizenship spirit.

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