Juliann McCandless's 2020 Vision

The multi-hyphenate producer talks about her new interview series featuring creatives who are moving the culture, for the here and now.

by Ashley Tyner
|
Oct 19 2020, 3:04pm

“It’s funny, my mother didn’t know very much about her Indigenous heritage,” explains stylist, creative consultant, and organizer Juliann McCandless. “There was so much racism when she was young and when my grandmother was young, that they were taught to run away from their culture. My grandmother was encouraged to wear a veil over her face and white makeup to hide her skin color.”

Originally from Canada, and of mixed European and First Nations descent—her father is white and her mother is Indigenous—McCandless received a very different kind of message from her own parents about her heritage. Both activists and advocates for the Indigenous community, they encouraged her from a very early age to lean into the fight for racial and environmental justice and workers’ rights. This formative training followed her into adulthood, leading her to voter registration work, organizing for Bernie Sanders in her adopted home of California, organizing an art show channeling proceeds from tickets to a First Nations camp protesting a pipeline route in Canada, and Opposition, a book featuring conversations with fifteen creative women and femmes about imagining a world post-Trump.

Balancing her creative and community life comes easily to McCandless, who believes “they fuel each other.” The latest iteration of this fusion is 2020 Vision, an interview series in which she sits down with personalities across fashion, art, culture, and politics to discuss where we go from here. In the first two episodes, shared exclusively with GARAGE, she talks to Tremaine Emory, now half of the creative powerhouse that is No Vacancy Inn, who breaks down the relationship between capitalism and racial bigotry; and Gypsy Sport head designer Rio Uribe, who explains how accepting himself gave him the courage to create one of the fashion industry’s most imaginative and inclusive brands.

These conversations have left McCandless with an overwhelming feeling of hope. “Every time I talk to someone I feel more hopeful that things will change, everyone is pushing for change in their own avenue, and has different things to bring to the table that are equally important, it’s so inspiring. The main thing I learned through organizing is when you talk to people who you think will be really different from you, you usually have more in common than you think.” GARAGE spoke to McCandless about creativity and pursuing new projects.

What made you decide to embark on this project? 
The 2020 Vision project has been something I’ve been wanting to do for a few years. It was inspired by a book I published a few years ago, and the closer we got to 2020, the more I felt it was important to move forward sharing creatives’ and activists' stories and voices and hearing what issues were important to them. The point was to inspire more people to get involved in volunteering, activism, the political process, and if nothing else, to VOTE.

How has your heritage has impacted your political point of view.
When my mom met my dad she was performing contemporary dance in a festival at the Stein Valley in British Columbia. The festival was created to protect Indigenous rights, and protect the Stein Valley from logging. When she met my father, my mother was very drawn to the cause and the land, so much so that she choreographed movement specifically for this place, to perform there, without even knowing that this was her ancestral land.

It was very serendipitous, that my mom performed in the festival on her tribal territory which my father was fighting to save. She ended up dancing in the festival the following year with me in her belly.

That story says most of it about how my heritage and my family shaped me. I’ve been involved in activism since I was in the womb. Climate justice and racial justice and art have been a part of my life since before I was born. Thanks to my parents and grandmother.

Will you be voting this year?
Yes I will definitely be voting. It was hard for me to come around to voting for someone like Joe Biden. I’m voting for him because I think he will be the easier person of the two to push into racial equity, criminal justice reform, climate justice, economic justice—I could keep going… Getting him into office is the beginning of the fight, and it’s VERY important.

Do you think right now is a good or bad time to be a creative/artist?
I think it’s both to be honest. It’s difficult right now because of the pandemic and the economy, art is something that tends to be the first to get cut. I think it’s an amazing time to be an artist in the sense that I think some of the most profound, influential work is created during difficult times. I think we are living through some of the most inspiring times, it's dark but there’s so much hope and beauty everywhere.

How has this moment impacted your view of your personal creative work?
I think everything that’s happened in the past seven months has reinforced for me a lot of the themes in my personal work and has pushed me to continue to focus on communicating those messages. For some reason having more time has made me realize how valuable time is and how important it is to do use that time in a way that is healthy, for you, for your community for the environment.

What are your hopes for the future?
I just want everyone to get involved, if we all worked together we could solve so many problems and make a better situation for EVERYBODY. But I think before people can get involved they need the education to get there. I hope the industry speaks up and helps educate and inspire people

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