Art & Culture
March 27, 2016

Public Art is the @VanRealDeal

Vancouver Deputy Mayor Heather Deal has a number of portfolios – usually all the ways to make sure our City is becoming delightful – including Arts & Culture. She is passionate about the topic and a Councillor Liaison to the Arts & Culture Policy Council so I asked her to tell me more. She shared stories about her conversations with Vancouverites on public art. 1. Poodle on a Stick

Poodle (no official name) by Gisele Amantea got negative media when someone from the area complained that Main Street isn’t a poodle neighbourhood. Which is awesome because public art got people talking about the identity of their neighbourhood.

There were also complaints about cost and it not being a local artist (both based on inaccurate reporting).

(TP note: How many of our public art pieces have their own Twitter account? Follow @MainStPoodle)

When people complain to me about the poodle, I ask them what piece of public art they do like.

2. A-mazing Laughter

9/10 answer: A-mazing Laughter at English Bay – a Vancouver Biennale piece. So I ask them 3 questions about it:

Does it reflect the West End?

How much did cost?

Where is the artist from?

No one can answer that. Not one person to date.

(TP: I was able to answer all 3 – including who negotiated the counteroffer and donated it.)

3. The Third Piece

Then I ask for opinions about a third piece of public art. Very few can name one. Some come up with Myfanwy MacLeod’s The Birds in Olympic Village.

Some can name Giants by OSGEMEOS on Granville Island – another biennale piece from an international artist team.

4. I love it when people talk about our city.

Art is a great place to start that conversation. Learn about the hundreds of pieces of public art in Vancouver at the City’s website here.

5. Notice art.

Think about whether you like it or don’t. Look it up and learn about the artist and their inspiration.

Did you know that the poodle was made by an artist living in the region at the time and that it was inspired by the antique shops on Main Street? (TP: I had no idea.)

We also want to encourage people to think about what they like and want in public spaces such as art (murals, pieces, etc.) and what type of programmed space, festivals, and unprogrammed squares or plazas they’d like.

Ask yourself: Do you want to be entertained? Amused? Challenged?

Reminded of something in our history, negative or positive?

Awed? Do you want to be able to interact with it?

Does it compel you to take a selfie with it?

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David Sucher from Seattle tweeted this one from Granola Shotgun by Johnny.
Listen up, Surrey, Langley and Abbotsford; this is the future talking.  Your problems may not be as bad as the decaying American ‘burbs, but cheaper rents and a building stock ready for conversion still apply.  Artists in strip malls!

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I have a peculiar theory about where the next generation of counter culture folks are going to set up shop. You know… artists, musicians, small scale entrepreneurs, gays, refugees, and whatever passes for the political and economic fringe in the future. When I look back at these locations from the past there’s a clear pattern. The two primary ingredients are 1) Cheap real estate and 2) A relatively unregulated environment. …

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The above photos are from the Kensington neighborhood in Philadelphia. Cheap. Mostly ignored by the authorities. These folks chose to live in bohemian surroundings for $400 a month – that’s $200 each – in order to have the freedom to do their own thing. There was no HOA. There were no NIMBYs. But Kensington is rapidly gentrifying and prices are rising as $300,000 condos and upscale brew pubs emerge. These guys have already moved out of Kensington in search of greener pastures. But it was great while it lasted. …
Here’s where I think the next Mecca of the creative class is most likely to emerge.

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This is the kind of rapidly declining suburban landscape that is in evidence all across North America. It isn’t leafy and tranquil like the better suburbs. The schools are crap. But it isn’t vibrant like the best urban locations either. This spot is too far from the city to easily access good jobs, but it’s just close enough to receive the undesirable overflows from the greater metroplex. …

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It’s the Mid Century Modern version of restoring an old Victorian. Get enough of these clustered in one neighborhood and you might just start a revival. If not, you still have an affordable place to hang your hat and do your own thing. Pick a subculture. Mormons. Vietnamese. Retired school teachers. Urban permaculture gardeners. Whatever. The trick is to establish a critical mass of like minded individuals that support each others’ productive activities. You don’t want to be the only gay in the village.

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From the Daily Scot:

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What do you get when you combine block upon block of old brick warehouses and functioning light industry with the creative set just a short cycle ride from Downtown?  The LA Arts District, of course.  Sandwiched between Skid Row, Little Tokyo and the Los Angeles River, the Arts District is a compact, walkable collection of restaurants, cafes, tech startups, loft apartments and, of course, artist studios.

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Originally a bastion for cheap studio space during the ’70s and ’80s, pioneering artists occupied abandoned buildings throughout the neighbourhood, many often living in the structures illegally.  The City of Los Angeles eventually passed an artist-in-residence ordinance making it legal for them to live in their studios, helping to encourage and promote the area as an incubator for the arts.   The district has been rapidly gentrifying ever since, with expensive infill apartments and loft conversions now commanding top dollar.

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The newer building development really stands out; portions of old factory shells are preserved while contemporary structures emerge from the upper floors.  It seems to be all about juxtaposing styles that are still very sympathetic to one another in scale.

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Not all residential development is well received, some such as this project, striking fear from residents that the character of this unique district will be destroyed.

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Signs of the neighbourhoods previous industry are everywhere.  Factories, warehouse doors, and numerous abandoned rail spurs serving old loading docks have all been preserved and re-purposed for work and play.
You can’t help but wonder if there are essentially two parallel gentrifications happening at the moment: the first consisting of original artists being pushed out due to soaring rents and the second involving industry (especially on the fringes) losing space to tech studios and creative startups.  Whatever the case, the LA Arts District is definitely one of the hottest hoods in town.

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Yesterday evening, over on the decks of Canada Place – Dîner en Blanc.

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Just up harbour at CRAB Park – the first-ever Ce Soir Noir.

 

Or as The Sun cleverly described the two: Black and White and Bread All Over.  But in my opinion, heh, CRAB took the cake:


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One of the biggest differences in the two events, in addition to colour and demographics, was how the respective crowds arrived:

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Something never seen before: a playground full of kids, all in black.

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Bravo to the creators and organizers.  Just the right amount of people, creativity and civility.

Photo by Michael Alexander

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Easy prediction: Ce Soir Noir will become a global complement to Dîner en Blanc.

Danger:  It will become so popular, it too may have to limit capacity.

And then: La Fête Gris.

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The latest installation of The Active Fiction Project, a collaboration between the Vancouver Public Space Network, local writers and Riley Park neighbourhood residents, is now available!

Come check out our first story of the 2015 season: “As Above, So Below” by local writer Brittany Huddart — here’s how to get to it:

  • Story starts outside the art shop on 28th ave, just east of Main. Look around the planter boxes for the first chapter.
  • At the end of each chapter, you’re given a choice about how the story should continue – make your choice, and head over to the location of the next chapter of your choosing.

The installation is temporary so you only have a few weeks to catch this story before it vanishes… and is replaced with a new one.

Learn more at the Active Fiction Project website.

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Michael Alexander reports:

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There seem to be more public pianos around town. In my walk from Yaletown to Olympic Village, there are now three: at Science World, being played by a woman in one of those electric vehicles used by people with disabilities (not sure what they’re called) …

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Then, on the seawall just past the Dragon Boat area at the east end of the Olympic Village …

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And, after a long linger with a friend at Terra Breads, looking down on a trio— yes, drums and bass– around the piano at Spyglass Place, after we’d climbed to the west walkway of the Cambie Bridge on our way home. The tide was turning, creating wonderful patterns in the water of False Creek…

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So, thanks once again to the wonderful people at City Studio and their Keys to the Streets program which puts public pianos around Vancouver each summer, making for some of the city’s loveliest surprise experiences.

Vancouver needs more of this sweet imagination.

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Maybe it was sometime around the turn of the century, but the Gay Pride Parade was no longer just about gay pride – or at least the reason for a political statement inherent in that word ‘pride.’  It no longer seemed as necessary.

Instead, the parade had been embraced as a home-made community-wide event – an opportunity for everyone to come together along the streets of the West End, at the height of a long weekend in summer, to push some boundaries and have some fun.  And then in a beachfront fairground, to sing and dance, show off, and marvel at who we had become.

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UPDATE from the Daily Scot:

Ain’t no party like Vancouver Pride party.

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While wandering through Copenhagen, I remembered an observation from UBC urban design professor Patrick Condon: There is a neighbourhood in the city, unique in form, that shows how density can be accommodated in a very friendly way.  Something about potatoes.

And sure enough:

Street Of The Week No. 8: Copenhagen’s Potato Rows

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Streets for people is the name of the game in Copenhagen’s “potato rows” (Kartoffelrækkerne in Danish). This neighborhood, located in the Østerbro area of Copenhagen, derives its name from humble beginnings as housing for working-class families, yet the area has become a very popular and expensive place to live.

The streets here are narrow …

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That was enough to track down the Potato Rows (map here) – and to head off in their general direction.  Of course, there’s no way one walks or cycles directly to any place in Copenhagen, not without distractions.

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Like the National Gallery of Denmark (it’s free) ….

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… with its interesting example of Danish vandalism.  Kids, likely, threw chairs from the plaza into the decorative pond …

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… which then became, spontaneously, an adventure playground.  For the boys below, the city is an engaging and active place, and no one, including security, seemed about to shoo them away for their own safety.

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Beyond the gallery, greenspace – lots of it, including a church graveyard, the Holems Kirkegard, which I wandered into, thinking it was a shortcut.  (It’s not.)  But there was no rush, especially when it’s hard to find a better example of landscaping designed for the pleasure of contemplation, strolling and even picnicking.

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Time to push on – necessarily avoiding various gardens, castles, galleries and churches.  Finally, a major intersection (map here).

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Not quite what I had imagined as Copenhagen scale, but typical for a town with broad, straight avenues surrounding a medieval core and with commercial arterials dividing blocks of courtyard housing.  They also conveniently provide enough room, unlike Vancouver, for spacious and separated cycle paths in both directions.

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This, by the way, is not an atypical amount of cycling traffic outside rush hour.  I began to realize that the amount of traffic on Vancouver’s bikeways can be the same or greater than on much of the pathway system in Copenhagen.  It’s just that they have so much more of it dispersed through their network.

Oh, here too we’re out of space.  But the Potato Rows are down the street. We’ll get there tomorrow.

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The work in “The Past Is Personal” ranges across three decades of self-expression. Triggered by his years traveling the world and his experiences living on the island of Bali where an inner transformation began, Tiko’s shared his personal story, his mentoring by the Shadbolts and his love of Vancouver in an artistically honest way.

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May 28

6 to 10 pm

The David Robinson Gallery in (the 1000 Parker Street Studios). Tiko will also be presenting an artist’s talk Saturday afternoon at 2pm at the same location.

More here, with Kerr’s work.

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