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Samuel John Carter | 1943 - 2023

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Advancement + Events
By Guest Entry

Posted on November 28, 2023 | Updated December 01, 2023, 9:49am

Filed in Faculty, Staff, Students

Sam Carter

Please join us in the Aboriginal Gathering Place to celebrate Sam's extraordinary life.

Friday, December 1

4:00pm - 7:00 pm

Everyone is welcome.

Remembering Sam with Sheila Hall and Douglas Coupland will begin at 5:30pm.

    With the passing of Mr. Samuel John Carter (80), our world is now a less fabulous place. Sam — a beloved teacher, thinker, artist and designer — was born in, of all places, Des Moines, Iowa in 1943, but his family quickly moved to Los Angeles where he became the embodiment of Californian idyllic youth culture — until, during a 1965 design job with the Ontario Science Centre, he discovered Canada in a big way, and he never looked back, ultimately becoming the acknowledged national expert on Canadian applied art and design. Sam began his teaching journey at the Vancouver School of Art in the late 70s, and he taught there for 46 years while the school grew and grew and grew into the Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

    Sam was a Foundation teacher (the first year of art school) during which he changed the lives of countless students who were just learning how to find their creative wings. Sam treated his students like guests in his own house, and to quote him, "My class is like a dinner party, and if you're not able to come then you give me 48-hours' notice." Students rarely bailed.

    If you look at photos of Sam, it's rare to find one in which he wasn't broadly smiling. He loved being alive! And he loved creativity and creative people as well as making almost anything with his hands. Through both his teaching, and by example of the life he lived, his students realized that art and design isn't just about what you make, but it's also about how you live your life. If you were super lucky you got to be bartender at one of his parties which were astonishingly grown-up and chic and showed the promise of a big and exciting world out there. Sam made you want to go out there and not only do your job, but also to be someone.

    Sam worked with many arts organizations and events here in Vancouver — the Canadian Society for Asian Arts, Expo 86, the 2010 Olympics, but also his prize was as well as his namesake annual award, the Carter-Wosk Award (organized the BC Applied Art and Design Awards Program.) In last year's 2022 award ceremony, one winner said, "I just work in my basement all day and then suddenly I'm here tonight learning there are all these other people who do what I do. I had no idea we were all out there." Creativity, at its finest, brings like souls together and leads to great work. Sam knew that.

    Sam was also the classiest, most humble and most joyful teacher many of us have been lucky to know. He died on Saturday, November 4 at 1:54 in the afternoon holding hands with the people he loved and who loved him. There will be a public event on Friday, December 1 from 4 - 7pm at Emily Carr's beautiful Aboriginal Gathering Place. There will be food and drinks and of course everyone is welcome.

    Here's a thought, a paraphrase of something (I believe) Mr. Rogers said: Maybe there are people in your life who saw something in you that you didn't see in yourself, and so they grabbed you by the shoulders and they turned you around and pushed you in the right direction. If those people are still around, give them a call and let them know. It's what makes being alive a wonderful place.

    And here's the very last thing: a few years back, when Sam was discussing the words you're now reading, he very much wanted to end it by saying how much he loved you all. And so yes, he did.