Creativity in the Circle

Corey Payette is proud of his Oji-Cree heritage from Northern Ontario. A playwright, actor, composer, and director at theatres across Canada, he is currently the Artistic Director of Urban Ink Productions and the founder of Raven Theatre — both Vancouver based Aboriginal non-profit arts organizations that focus on new works by Indigenous artists. He is also on the Board of Directors of the Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance (IPAA) and of Vancouver Native Health Society which provides mental, physical, and spiritual relief to Aboriginal people on the Downtown East Side of Vancouver.

“I love every moment of what I do for a living,” Payette explains with passion. “I have a job where I work creatively in the arts and at the same time write and develop stories and music about our communities in a way that inspires and educates. It doesn’t feel like a job,” he continues. “I love bringing voices to the public that have been historically silenced and providing new perspectives.”

Urban Ink Productions is dedicated to providing a platform for Indigenous artists and communities to tell their own stories through creative expression in community outreach, performance works and creative programs and workshops for emerging artists. “Urban Ink works in rural communities, sometimes on reserves, taking a respectful and collaborative approach to Indigenous partnerships is essential. Each community is different and we approach our work in communities through Elders and cultural leaders who guide our way,” says Payette.

Payette’s work reflects much of his own history with his culture and community. The theatre world, like many other non-profit organizations, is a community where he can explore and understand his culture on a deeper level. “I grew up off reserve,” he explains, “and so much of my work as an adult has been focused to connecting with my First Nations culture.”

For those interested in following a similar path, Payette has this advice, “Find your community, wherever it is, one that allows for you to tell your stories and have your voice heard. These organizations, and others like them, are the lifeblood of arts and culture for our communities,” he says. “They aren’t the corporate machines that try to tell us what to think. Instead, they inspire us to take a deeper look at issues and come to our own conclusions.”