The City of Surrey is honouring (from left) Ed Griffin

Surrey honours a trio of ‘treasures’

Three longtime advocates for arts and culture in Surrey named as city's 2012 Civic Treasures.

There’s a quote from Aristotle that inspires Surrey’s Ed Griffin: “Art releases unconscious tensions and purges the soul.”

It’s these words that have helped him, over many years, to champion the the art of writing – whether it be by founding the Surrey International Writers Conference nearly 20 years ago, penning his own books, or teaching prison inmates his craft.

For his passion and dedication, Griffin has been chosen as one of three Surrey Civic Treasures for 2012. Among the other honourees are First Nations elder and ambassador June Laitar and Gladys Andreas, who’s been key in preserving Ukrainian culture in B.C.

Laitar is a founding member of Surrey’s Kekinow Native Housing, Kla-How-Eya Aboriginal Centre, and the Surrey Aboriginal Cultural Society, a centre for the resurgence of aboriginal culture, language, and teachings that also provides a wide range of cultural and social services.

In 2008 she was involved in “Awakening the Spirit,” a cross-cultural community partnership to create a 32-foot cedar canoe and bring it to schools and special events throughout Surrey. The next year she helped organize and host a Federation of Canadian Municipalities delegation visiting Surrey from Bolivia.

Laitar has provided an aboriginal perspective to an array of committees and government agencies, including the Surrey School District, Fraser Region Aboriginal Planning Committee for Children and Families and Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

Andreas is the founder of the B.C. Ukrainian Cultural Festival and has continued for 17 years to organize an event that brings Ukrainian dance groups from across the province in a setting that also includes music, food, arts,crafts and literature.

She’s active on the executive of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and promotes the Ukrainian participation in Surrey’s Fusion Festival. She is active with the Arts Council of Surrey, and her women’s association contributes financially to youth groups.

Griffin not only teaches prisoners at Pacific Prison in Abbotsford, but also teaches creative writing at the Phoenix Drug and Alcohol Recovery and Education Centre in Surrey, and has established a bursary to help inmates with higher education. Since 2001, he has published five of his own books.

The Surrey Civic Treasures awards were established in 2008 to honour citizens who help develop or promote appreciation of the city’s culture. Laitar, Andreas and Griffin will be honoured at the ninth-annual Business and the Arts reception at the Surrey Arts Centre on Oct. 2.