It is not often that a  Vancouver person’s  working life has a half century of documentation and film.  In 1964 Vern Frick was documented in this YouTube video which was produced for CBC and described his daily work as a postman. In the video he stops on Granville Street for his morning coffee. The original postal station D was on Broadway close to Fir Street, and you can see the Fir Street off ramp for the Granville Bridge in the video below. You also see a different Vancouver, with wooden houses, front porches, and a mailman who knows everyone on his route.

Vern Frick later worked as a postal inspector and ended up in safety management with the Post Office. Although he retired over 20 years ago from the post office, he kept on with his second job which was as an usher with the PNE (Pacific National Exhibition). And what a life he experienced with that job. This  2018 article by Susan Lazarek with the Vancouver Sun describes Vern as the “longest-serving employee of the PNE, who has been on shift as a part-time usher for virtually all the shows at the annual exhibition venues since the summer of 1963, is working his last shift on Labour Day.”

He was at the Beatles concert as an usher in August 22, 1964 (which ended after twenty minutes when fans rushed the stage).

Read more »

With thanks to Duke of Data Andy Yan for the reference, here’s a memory for those of a Certain Age that were taking transit in Vancouver in the 1980’s and 1990’s. At that time, the city seemed to be covered with ubiquitous places where you could get muffins, most near transit hubs. Muffin shops also carried coffee, not the fancy stuff of Starbuck’s creativity but the kind that came straight out of a glass carafe, and usually had the consistency of caramel.

Karon Liu in the Star wrote last spring about the muffin trend, stating that “the bar (was) set by Toronto-based muffin chain Mmmuffins (full name: Marvellous Mmmuffins). In the chain’s ’80s and early ’90s heydays, almost every Canadian mall had a location that offered a rotating menu of flavours. Everyone had their favourite: some liked the cornmeal muffin, others peach bran, while my mom loved the seldom-seen pineapple muffin…”

Marvellous Mmmuffins started in 1979, was franchised, and peaked in the 1980 to 1990 years. By 2019, what was once a bevy of stores had shrunk to only two with one of them, the Second Cup, picking up on the new trend towards espresso and specialty coffee.

It may seem a weird trend now where people are careful about ingesting carbohydrates , but in the late 1980’s Liu observes that the muffin had the three ingredients necessary for the  “yuppie” (“Young Urban Professional”) lifestyle.

Read more »

It glitters!  It spins!  It outrages!

Click here to see the Chandelier spin.  Whee!

Since it was hung under the Granville Bridge, Spinning Chandelier has appalled those who deem it an insult.  Like Melody Ma:

How did such an insensitive piece of public art come into existence? Did no one at the city of Vancouver anticipate the outrage that would follow?

… It’s like letting the McDonald’s golden arches be the emblem of a city. …

One spinning chandelier to remind us of the inequality in the city is more than enough. It’s time to review the public art process before it produces another obscene structure …

Whether it’s puritans or progressives who are condemning an artwork as obscene, watch out.  Mediocrity is waiting in the wings.

And we happen to have an ideal comparison with two works by one artist: Rodney Graham, who actually created the obscene Chandelier, chosen by the developer, and another piece you’ve probably never heard of, chosen by the kind of process that Ma favours:

It was a commission for the Olympic and Paralympic Public Art Program, and it is, if I may be harsh, one of the most mediocre works on one of the most opportune sites in the city: the entrance to Stanley Park.

The work takes its title from a series of photographs … which documented a series of ‘incorrectly’ assembled toy glider kits… And the park, of course, is a place where children and adults may very well play with glider.

It would at least be appropriate next to a children’s play space.  So how about we do a switch: put Graham’s work near a playground and replace it with the statue of Lord Stanley, arms spread wide, welcoming “people of all colours, creeds and customs” at the entrance to the park.

Except, of course, this dead white male colonialist wouldn’t pass the trauma test.  Nor does the Chandelier, according to Mitch Speed in another scathing indictment in MoMus:

Read more »

Vancouver has the highest density of artists per capita in Canada. But they’ve lost nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space in the past decade, while their median rental rates have increased more than 65 per cent. The Eastside Culture Crawl Society, alarmed at the increasing conversion of light industrial buildings to condos, produced A City Without Art?, a report that documents artists’ displacement, and calls for no net loss of existing spaces, plus more non-profit and community ownership, and other strategies.

Meanwhile, The City of Vancouver has committed to addressing our acute cultural space challenges in its Culture | Shift plan, and has recently opened 10,800-square-foot purpose-built artist production facility Howe Street Studios, with much more promised.

Can it deliver? Can it stop conversions? Will more artist space mean less city housing?

Our guides for this conversation are Eri Ishii, formerly evicted painter, and Director of Portside Studios and the 901 Artists Cooperative; Cheryl Hamilton of ie: Creative, and a third speaker to be confirmed.

 

Thursday, January 16

12:30 PM

SFU Vancouver Harbour Centre – 515 West Hastings Street

Free Event | Registration is Required

Read more »

Sesame Street is 50.

The Washington Post celebrates its Kennedy honours here.

While us Boomers weren’t the target market (by 20, I knew my alphabet), our kids were – and every generation thereafter.  But Sesame Street did teach me a lot about a particular version of New York – a working class street of brownstones, stoops, a mix of shops and homes, a mix of people.  This was not the suburbia of my neighbourhood or the rest of sit-com TV.

And while this version of New York was, well, nice, it was also edgier than even today’s version of the show, and it prepared me for a New York in the late 1970s and 80s that was anything but nice.  As the Post writer recollects:

On a recent afternoon’s binge, I watched one “Sesame” musical number from 1975 called “The Subway!” several times in a row. It’s funny and impressively clever — edgy, even, when compared with the show’s present-day tone. “You could lose your purse; or you might lose something worse, on the subway,” sang an old-lady Muppet, squeezed into a subway car with a trenchcoated Kermit the Frog, a testy Bert and too many others.

Sesame Street taught me the ABCs of an urbanity of which I had no experience.  And so, when I had the chance to experience it, I saw the city not just as some dangerous, undesirable, perverse world but as a place to which I had been given an introduction by a green frog and his friends  – even the underground world of The Subway.

*Here are the lyrics to The Subway:

Read more »

Doesn’t it make sense to have a festival of public art and installations during the darkest months of the year to animate the city? That is exactly what Amsterdam does in their annual Light Festival that is held every December and January. The installation “Absorbed by the Light” created by British artist Gali May Lucas was placed  in December 2018 outside the Hermitage Amsterdam. This piece is a visual commentary on how we use screens constantly to enlighten our lives,  while that lit screen moves us away from the surrounding environs.

As the artist states  “I see this every day in parks and in restaurants, especially in winter when there are more hours of darkness…I chose to create something instantly recognisable and quite literal. But eerie at the same time.”

Amsterdam uses walking, biking and boat tours to visit the many curated exhibits on display for sixty days.

Read more »

From the CBC:

“I really think this is a real gift to the city,” said Stewart. “Everything we can do to make this project be successful is at the top of my list.”

 

Be careful.  If Senakw, the Squamish Burrard Bridge project, is a gift to the city, other proponents will come bearing gifts for similar considerations.

From Expo 86 to the 2010 Olympics, the City has seen almost a dozen megaprojects appear on the skyline – developer-driven, comprehensively designed and built, beginning with Concord Pacific in the late eighties.  All through the nineties, megaprojects sprouted – from Coal Harbour to Collingwood Village to Fraser Lands.

They all had to meet standards for complete communities, based originally on what we had learned when the City created the South Shore of False Creek, followed by Granville Island.  If a developer came to the City with a megaproject proposal, they came with a plan that met the council-approved megaproject standards.

The City extracted huge wealth from the value it created through those zoning approvals.  Lots of parkland and seawall extensions, in addition to the basic infrastructure – pipes, cables and roads.  As well: social amenities and necessities – schools, community centres, child care as a priority; housing percents for families with children, for social equity. There were design standards: for cycling, for sustainability, for the arts.  And more.  That’s what we meant by ‘complete communities’ – and you can go walk around in the results.

Developers paid for all this through direct provision of the benefits, like a child-care centre, or through ‘contributions’ – those CACs you hear about without quite understanding how they work.

In the case of Senakw, it could be the other way around.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers (Vancouver’s first aboriginal relations manager) said Senakw will give future Vancouverites the chance to live in the city and it’s up to the city to respond to concerns about infrastructure and capacity.

Stewart say he is up to the challenge, including working with the park board, the school board and the province to ensure community services are available when the neighbourhood’s new residents arrive.

At 10- to 12,000 residents, there is no way Senakw could meet some of the established standards.  Concord Pacific had to provide 2.75 acres of park for every thousand residents.  Senakw would need more than twice the area of its entire 11-acre site.  While it’s not yet clear what Senakw will  provide, it isn’t obligated.  Nor is it yet clear (or even negotiated), but the City looks like it’s committing itself to providing significant amenities and necessities – accepting density and paying for impacts.

So if the development itself – the thousands of market rental apartments – is the gift, then why would the City not be open to receiving more gifts from other developers.  Yes, Senakw is unique given its status as a reserve, so developers wouldn’t expect the same deal.  They’d just expect the amenity bar to be lowered.

How the relationship develops and negotiations occur is what reconciliation is seriously about – a relationship based on mutual interests levered for maximum value. One of the values of the City is the building of complete communities.  Squamish would point to their own history for examples.  It shouldn’t be hard to come to a consensus.

Squamish has an interest in a successful development in every respect.  The city has to demonstrate respect.  Together, they’re negotiating our collective interests.

This is the reality of reconciliation.  It’s not about gifts, or reparations.  It’s about building the latest version of a complete community, together.

Read more »

If you’ve already seen these posters around Vancouver over the past year-plus, then your Vancouver street cred is showing…

Coming Soon!” is a series of hand-made prints from artist and Emily Carr University instructor Diyan Achjadi, commissioned by the City of Vancouver Public Art Program.

Installed on fences and hoardings that surround construction sites in the city, these prints were created by Achjadi as she began to take note of the way construction sites interrupt pedestrians on their day-to-day travels.

As she says in a video produced for the project, she started to ask questions about these spaces, one of which was: can a hand-made artefact interact with commercially-made spaces that are about desire and selling things, and present images that aren’t about commerce, capital, or selling anything?

Read more »

Last year I wrote about  the  University of British Columbia study that identified Halloween night as having a 43 per cent higher risk of pedestrian deaths than any other night close to that date. Using available traffic data from the United States, the researchers looked at 608 pedestrian deaths that occurred on 42 previous Halloween nights, and found similar findings to that of a study done 20 years ago.

The graphs below show the spike in deaths of children occuring on Halloween. The second graph is more shocking, showing that 25 percent of those deaths occurred around 6:00 p.m.(at dusk)  with the other 75 percent being evenly distributed between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m.

As the Vancouver Sun  wrote, even though vehicles  are equipped with better safety systems and lights, “car-pedestrian accidents kill four more people on average on Halloween than on other days…Kids aged 4 to 8 faced the highest risks…” 

I have previously written about the University of Iowa study that found that  children between the ages of 6 and 14 years of age were not able to judge the speed, distance, and  safe crossing time in moving traffic. The study found they could not  recognize gaps in traffic, and that skill was not fully developed until the child was around 14 years of age. Even a 12 year old crossing experienced a “fail” two percent of the time in the study.

Couple that with the current SUV obsession. SUVs (sports utility vehicles) are responsible for a 46 percent increase in pedestrian deaths and serious injury. Because of their high front ends, pedestrians are twice as likely to die if they are hit by one. Drivers of SUVs are also 11 percent more likely to be killed driving one, as the size and bulk encourages more reckless driving behaviour.

Read more »