Street performers deserve your respect and attention

A city isn’t merely defined by its location, or the high-rises cropping up against the sky as towering giants. Its unique identity goes beyond simple economics and infrastructure; it’s made by the mood and tone of the people who live, work, and create there.

In cities like Vancouver, street artists are a prominent force in shaping their home’s overall atmosphere and reputation — in fact, they help drive our tourist industry beyond where it would otherwise be. Yet even here, they’re far too often ignored, and this is a reality that needs to change.

The City of Vancouver and its officials understand their importance, and encourage these performers to create their art within the parameters of various bylaws and regulations set out to ensure public acquiescence. What most people don’t consider is just how much effort goes into making this coexistence possible.

Nearly every spot involves paperwork and permits to perform there, although parks, Library Square, and certain community spaces allow musicians and other forms of street entertainers to forgo this hassle. Otherwise, performing takes money, effort, knowledge of the bylaws, and a refined and moving act.

This kind of investment illustrates the tenacity and dedication inherent to the characters of such artists. At the same time, it shows how much of a tragedy it is when they’re disregarded, or become the victims of disrespect and contempt. These precious people work hard to make strangers smile. It’s commendable that even when so many walk past uncaringly, these performers continue to celebrate and share life, passion, and art.

As forward-thinking students of a school already dedicated to creating an inclusive and supportive environment, we should be able to respect and appreciate all that a street artist puts into their work. Whether your interests fall in the arts or elsewhere, we all know firsthand what it’s like to put your all into your work and just hope that it pays off.

Yet, when heading out to Vancouver, many of us still tune them out, paying no mind to what they have to offer.

Street artists make their living creating something beautiful for others, hoping it will be appreciated enough to warrant the forgotten change in a person’s pocket. All they ask is that you enjoy their music, their dance, their art — if you enjoy what they do, let them know. If you find yourself pausing to listen for a moment, or smiling as you walk past, then drop in a coin or a couple dollars as a simple show of support.

Being an artist isn’t the easiest life, but it’s a life of creation and possibility. Street artists embody this reality. Realizing this, and knowing the smile that may flit across your own face as you hear them, find a way to show them what they do matters. Twenty-five cents in that battered suitcase to say you appreciate what they’re doing. Twenty-five cents to say thank you.