While the past few years have been harrowing, they’ve also highlighted the beauty of community. Discovering the Be Kind Club was one of those moments — a reminder that there are people still committed to fostering community through kindness. The initiative sells different handmade goods to raise money for organizations that are supporting our many different communities.
Lisa Taniguchi is the artist behind the initiative, whose lettering work crafts “honest and human messages to lift others up, or to help people feel seen.” As a second-generation Japanese-Canadian designer, her work celebrates the Asian diaspora and, simply put, promotes kindness. We asked her to tell us a bit more about the Be Kind Club and her own practice of creating.
What is the Be Kind Club and what motivated you to start that initiative?
Be Kind Club is a shop that sells goods for fun and fundraising. We carry things like hats, tote bags, art prints, and more, that feature lettering art. Sometimes these products are part of fundraisers to make the world a kinder place.
I started Be Kind Club about a year ago when rising anti-Asian hate crime in North America hit a new high with the tragic Atlanta spa shooting. Two months later, Vancouver was named the anti-Asian hate crime capital of North America by Bloomberg. I wanted to use creativity to celebrate the Asian diaspora, but also raise funds to stop anti-Asian hate. I organized and sold an art zine featuring 14 Asian-Canadian and -American artists, 100% benefitting Project 1907 and Asian Americans Advancing Justice. Since then, we’ve run fundraisers benefiting the Indian Residential School Survivors Society and the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.
What are some other organizations here in Vancouver that are important to you and why?
I always like to signal boost the Indian Residential School Survivors Society. They have been providing services to survivors for over 20 years, and are an amazing organization that everyone should know about. A few other organizations that I love to support are Project 1907, the YMCA, the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, and Women in Tech World. One organization I recently learned about is the Crisis Centre of BC. They provide crisis support, suicide prevention, and postvention – a safe way for those who need help and hope to receive it. Our next fundraiser planned will be benefiting them.
Do you think that artists have an obligation to create community through their work? Why or why not?
Wow, I’ve never thought about this. I don’t think so. To me, being an artist shouldn’t create an obligation for that artist. Some people use art to heal and I think being creative just for yourself is perfectly valid. Personally speaking, finding a community through art has been super rewarding. Knowing that the art I created made someone feel less alone or feel celebrated is magical. Being able to connect with someone I would have never known is always amazing, both as an artist and with others’ art.
What about living in Vancouver inspires your art?
Vancouver is my home; I was born and raised here. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown a fuller appreciation of how beautiful the city is – and not just because of the nature. I remember spending three months abroad and the first thing I thought of when I arrived back in YVR was how grateful I was for its diversity. I love that, regardless of how you look or who you are, you belong here. I also love the creative community and the casual pace of the city.
You seem to play with so many different mediums, what is one creative thing you do just for yourself?
It feels like it changes by the week, but right now I’d say pottery. I’m still a beginner, but there’s something freeing about not knowing anything and trying to see what I can do with it, anyways. I also try to sketch just for myself often. Sometimes it ends up getting shared, but it’s a lovely way to keep a log of thoughts, emotions, and visuals that are in my brain. I have a terrible memory, so it’s nice to have something to look back to.
Who else’s work should we be following?
There are so many amazing Vancouver creatives! Alex Smyth (aka Guch World) is a creative with the cutest illustrations and ceramics (who also organizes Playground Pop-Up); Grace Cho is an art director, illustrator, and designer with a beautiful print shop; designer and illustrator Michael Mateyko creates a wide range of amazing work; Moniker Press is a lovely risograph print and publishing studio; interdisciplinary Coast Salish artist Atheana Picha has an impressive portfolio of work; Brother Jopa is a muralist, designer, videographer and master of typography; and independent designer Ben Didier specializes in lettering and custom typography.