The Happy Show is the cure Vancouver needs

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Photo courtesy of Katherine Holland.
Photo courtesy of Katherine Holland.
Photo courtesy of Katherine Holland.

The Vancouver Foundation has recently reported that Lower Mainland residents feel lonely and isolated, resulting in lower happiness overall. In order to address this topic, the Museum of Vancouver is displaying Stefan Sagmeister: The Happy Show, a vibrant exploration into happiness, from April 23–September 7.

The Happy Show is curated by Stefan Sagmeister, a designer known for his unique blend of typography and imagery. “It’s the perfect time and perfect place to engage Vancouver in terms of exploring happiness,” says Gregory Dreicer, Director of Curatorial and Engagement at the Museum of Vancouver. He adds, “It’s a really unique exhibition because it’s based on Sagmeister’s ten-year exploration of what makes him happy and [what] he learned from it.”

As for the exhibit, Dreicer claims that it really needs to be personally experienced. However, he divulges his favourite pieces in the exhibit. “There are a series of gumball machines that are very tall, and they are in a series of 10. Everyone who comes here has to take one gumball according to their level of happiness. So already [. . .], it is forming a kind of [infographic] that lets you see the level of happiness of Vancouverites.”

Other than engaging infographics, the exhibit also boasts an array of video projections and interactive installations. For one interactive sculpture, Dreicer explains, “when you walk up to it and smile, it causes the projection to create all these beautiful colours.” The exhibit also displays a preview of Sagmeister’s soon-to-be-released documentary, The Happy Film, which depicts his own attempts to increase his happiness through meditation, cognitive therapy, and mood-altering pharmaceuticals.

Central to the exploration of happiness, Dreicer advocates the exhibit’s ability to promote self-exploration into individual happiness. “I think it will encourage people to think about their own individual happiness,” he says. “Everyone knows whether they are happy or not, but most of us don’t really know [. . .] what really makes us happy.”

He explains that the exhibit itself is a response to how people are going about their pursuit of happiness all wrong. “Most people think that making more and more money makes them happier. But in fact, once you have your basic necessities taken care of [. . .] making more money doesn’t increase happiness.” People are striving for things they think will make them happy, Dreicer says, which “are not succeeding. [. . .] On the other hand, the things that do make people happy are sharing, collaborating with others, being generous and giving to others [which] actually helps to enhance happiness,” and helps the community in general, he says.

Truly, the key theme through this exhibit is the relationship between personal happiness and social connection. “The key to [individual] happiness,” explains Dreicer, “is social connection. And on the community level, urban happiness or well-being is also related connection between people.” Thus, he says, the relationship between happiness and connection is integral.

In order to continue the conversation and foster social interaction, the Museum of Vancouver will continue to focus on social connection and happiness. “We will be hosting Happy Hours where people can come, have a few drinks, and interact and mingle with an expert in one area of happiness,” says Dreicer. The group will also be holding a Family Day on May 23,  “to encourage families to come and interact and learn a little bit about happiness,” he adds.

Dreicer hopes that people begin their own self-exploration into their personal happiness after visiting the exhibition. “If people come, I think it will be good if they understood better what, as individuals, makes them happy and then what would make their communities happier. On a bigger level, I think it will help us think about how we are connected to others — since that is one of the big keys to happiness — how we relate to others, and what that means for ourselves and for our communities,” Dreicer concludes.

“Once people learn a little [and] think a little bit about it, I think it’s possible to make some change.”

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