Near Comox and Bute, in the Nelson Park gardens, is a housing complex for the birds and the bees. Like the rest of the West End, there’s a mix of high-rise, duplex and very high density (in the form of stacked bamboo rods, hanging from a silver carabineer).
All to support the teeming bee-industrial area to the north of the BeeTropolis.
Everyone has an opinion on those magnificently large and some say rather strange sparrows that hold down Olympic Square designed by Myfanwy MacLeod. And yes, apparently they were inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds 1963 horror film. As Kevin Griffin with the Vancouver Sun observes ” the shells have become significantly damaged, especially on the male bird. They are both used as ramps by skateboarders and bicycle riders, and people regularly climb over the two structures, which are 4.5 metres tall.” The tail of the male sparrow has been badly compromised and is no longer water proof, and the steel frames of the birds will be replaced with more durable aluminum. If the success of a public art project is the degree of tactile interaction that users have with it, the sparrows have been a big hit.
A Barcelona engineer who is on the committee for the rebuilding and reproofing of the famous promenade Las Ramblas came down to see The Birds public art work. He immediately referenced a favourite, the “El Gato de Botero” bronze which is now housed in Raval Park and is beloved by children and adults alike for his proportions and his rather hulking anatomy. The Gato is also climbed over and played with, but is made of much sturdier material. While polystyrene was used for the shell of the birds, the feet were cast in bronze and have had no damage.
Both birds will be taken down this fall and replaced in time for the-wait for it- 27th International Ornithological Congress next August. The City’s Public Art manager estimates the repairs at $425,000 which will be covered by a reserve fund for public art maintenance. Larger paving stones will also be installed below the male sparrow’s tail to reduce the likelihood of the public art continuing use as a skateboard and bike ramp.
As the artist states “People, especially kids, love to climb on stuff. You can’t stop people from being people. So you need to figure out how to make your work survive the realities of that.”
Distinctive, yet so ordinary as to be nearly invisible to passers-by.
Check the ingredients list: bike button, boulevard tree, mural on utility box (guy in a tie with pocket pens, and coffee steam entering his ear, kid in a tie bouncing high on spring feet, dude surfing in a tie with laptop & earbuds, sushi server, badminton player and birds, seagulls, happy airborne shopper), sidewalk, grassy boulevard.
Artist Fiona Ackerman created this mural south of Broadway on Ontario as part of the 2017 Mural Festival.
My highly personal criterion for recognizing successful public art is the “photo index”: whether people use it in their photos.
This mural is located on Granville St., between 7th and 8th, on the side of the Ian Tan Gallery.
Mural painted 2016 by Milan Basic (@milanbasicart) & Oksana Gaidashiva (@oxana_gaida). Artwork design by Kristofir Dean (@vegiterra), kristofir.com; @IanTanGallery.
Found some wonderful material just off Carrall St., north of Hastings. Amazing, it is, what’s out there.
It’s the latest piece of public art in downtown Vancouver, just installed in the entrance lobby of SFU Harbour Centre:
The backdrop will eventually reveal a more suitable setting, I presume, but this is already a powerful piece – a welcome figure by Musqueam artist Brent Sparrow:
You are being welcomed by one of the “noble, influential, and wealthy members of the community” wearing a nobility blanket, symbolizing “the wealth, power, and prestige of the wearer.”
This is a theme I have seen before, notably at McArthur Glen, the faux shopping village near the entrance to YVR. On the northern edge of the complex is a seating area surrounded by plaques that acknowledge and explain the Musqueam history and presence on this territory.
“We are wealthy, high class people and have always been on this land.”
The current wealth and satisfaction of the people of Vancouver is not just a post-settler phenomenon; it’s a reflection of the fortune and circumstance of its abundance and location, going back to post-glaciation – and explains why so many people desire to have a piece of it or make it their home.
The Musqueam culture reflected that abundance in its economy, identity and art.
To see ourselves as others see us. Always useful fun, even if the gushy words are a guilty pleasure.
Here’s Suzanne MacNeille in the New York Times undergoing smitification during her 36 Hours In Vancouver.
For locals, it’s no surprise or even a point of interest that the article’s lead illustration shows a bike rider on a bike path. But it’s a big deal to visitors. The city is becoming well-known for its broad and growing bike culture and safe infrastructure. Judging from the busy bike rental shops popping up everywhere, and the earnest material by Mobi on how to decide between Mobi or a rental shop — the tourist bike thing has serious legs.
Other highlights and cultural touchstones for Ms. MacNeille: nature, coastline, multi-ethnicity, public art, especially indigenous art (including murals), the eclectic food scene, architecture and neighbourhoods (like the West End).
Again at Carrall St just north of Hastings, another strong mural with a First Nations theme. This by artist Mauro Carrera (see below).
The person on the right is discussing an anti-tag coating that has been applied to the mural. Text on the right of the mural says: “Dedicated to all those who find strength within their struggle”, and “Culture saves lives”.
Created in part through the Downtown Eastside Centre For the Arts.
Artist Mauro Carrera (click to enlarge):
Carrera often ponders what he calls public practice and how to bring art into the public space. He focuses on murals because that’s what he is drawn to. . . . Carrera himself is no stranger to politics. He says he likes to “go past the mural itself and be politically engaged… In addition to challenging people’s spirituality, it is important for me to represent common folk, the workers, especially those in the Central Valley.” Born in Veracruz, Mexico, the Mexican immigrant experience is closest to his heart. Carrera draws inspiration from WWII era Social Realist muralists David Alfaro Siqueiros, Diego Rivera, and José Clemente Orozco who all represented the history of Mexico through art.
Thanks to Hannah Brandt at FresnoAlliance.com
Between Hastings and Cordova in the alley is a terrific new mural, now underway, on the south side of the Army & Navy building. It continues the strong First Nations theme of other works in the area. And is sponsored by Spacing Vancouver.
The artist team is Larissa Healy and Shadae Johnson.
Naa Tsmah – meaning ‘one heart one mind’ this mural is representative of the living in two worlds. The artist team will paint their stories of what it means to be people of the unceded Coast Salish lands while sharing the land with immigrants who have made this their home.
[Click to get a large-size slideshow of all pix]
Spacing Vancouver: The City of Vancouver, as part of its Canada 150+ program, commissioned a series of six paint and print murals created by Indigenous artists and artist teams, four of which have been completed this week. The new public art is part of the City’s ongoing commitment to reconciliation and strengthening of relations between Indigenous communities and Vancouverites. . . The Canada 150+ mural program is part of the City’s commitment to funding public art.
It’s called “Brand New Era Social Club“. The Capture Festival says this:
Alex Morrison’s diverse practice explores architecture’s role in reflecting and shaping ideologies, with an interest in how these ideologies fail and shift while the buildings embodying their beliefs live on. By analyzing architectural forms, Morrison explores how alternative narratives and histories trouble and intertwine with those prescribed by an architect. Moreover, through his interest in counterculture signifiers and facade-ism, he points to potential failings of aesthetic identification on a grand scale.
Reflecting thematically upon the fragmented nature of Vancouver’s story as a city, Morrison’s Brand New Era Social Club, his site-specific work for the Dal Grauer Substation, comments on both digital and analogue forms of representation and their importance in the construction of past narratives and contemporary reality. The multimedia work questions the nature of photography today and represents more broadly the aims of the Festival to drive photography discourse forward and encourage critical thinking and visual literacy.
Discovered this by accident while travelling to elsewhere on the Carrall St Greenway. It’s a striking departure from the blandly apolitical (and often unambitious) murals we see around Vancouver. I take this post’s title from several people who spoke to me while I was taking the shots that formed this pano.
And it’s part of a group of works in the area (Carrall north of Hastings) with a pointed First Nations theme.
I highly recommend looking at the large version, and noting such details as the frieze of people across the top. In fact, I recommend even more highly going to see the mural in person.
Here’s a 2 minute video on making the mural:
Plus the artist’s statement:
The mural at 350 Carrall is meant to symbolize the history of Vancouver, concentrating primarily on its surroundings between 1855-1955. It is impossible to include every significant event over a century on one wall, so rather we aimed to represent various significant processes to reveal how Vancouver’s current model of tolerance and multiculturalism was forged through histories of violence, racism and inequality.
The piece starts pre-colonialism on the left of the mural. It depicts the lush green areas of Luck-Lucky, now ‘Gastown’, and references the Musqueam canoe portage route between Burrard Inlet and False Creek, as well as some traditional long houses. Moving right, the significance of the early forestry industry is expressed through the transition from dense trees to stumps.
Next we have a tribute to Maple Tree Square and the role that alcohol and vice played in the development of Gastown. The tree transitions to a fire representing the great fire of 1886, where the city was destroyed just weeks after it was officially incorporated as ‘The City of Vancouver’. Next we have the 1907 Chinatown / Nihon Bachi (Japan District) riot, shown with an angry white mob attacking a storefront in Chinatown. There is reference to Wing Sang building, the oldest building still standing Chinatown, built by the influential Yip Sang in 1889.
We then fast forward to the depression where the rioters transition to a bread line and a despondent man is slumped over in the foreground. The background shows the confiscated fishing boats of Japanese-Canadian fisherman, which were taken during WWII when Japanese-Canadians were moved to internment camps in the interior. During the war Vancouver was one of the most productive ship building ports in North America, we symbolize with a large ship.
Throughout the piece, you see a train that starts at the golden spike and finishes near the end of the mural, this train represents the inter urban which used to bring passengers from all over the lower mainland to Hastings and Carrall, making this termination the centre of the city. In 1955 it was relocated from this spot and relocated to Granville Street, taking with it thousands of daily commuters and visitors and re-orientating the ‘centre’ of the city further west.
The last piece is a representation of a Musqueam woman symbolically tearing up the Indian Act in 1951. The reforms allowed the indigenous people of Canada to once again perform cultural practises such as the Potlatch, bring land claims to the government, and for women to vote in band council elections.
If you have a chance stop by the pop up park at the corner of West 5th Ave and Pine Street in Kits, its a temporary space opened by the City in November 2016 promoting sustainability through recycling of materials and habitat creation.
A colourful mural symbolizes onsite efforts to transform the light industrial site to neighbourhood meeting space among meadow plantings benefiting bees and other pollinators.
More about the pop up pocket park here on the City of Vancouver website
It’s a truism that people generally don’t like change. And sometimes change is not good for some people in our city, even though it may be positive in other ways.
Here’s a view of the 2016 Vancouver Mural Festival, from those who worry about its effect on marginalized people who live in the festival’s ‘hood.
With thanks to Zachary Hyde in The Mainlander (October 5, 2016)
“So what’s the problem?”, asks Hyde.
With the tech industry comes a young, educated, and highly mobile “creative class,” which local governments have sought to attract and maintain in hopes of boosting growth. In a short amount of time large scale street art murals, alongside food trucks and craft breweries, have become the prototypal cultural imprints of this emerging class. When viewed against the backdrop of the economic and cultural forces transforming the neighbourhoods north of Main Street and Broadway, the Vancouver Mural Festival fits comfortably within a pattern of municipally-led gentrification and tech redevelopment.
Zachary Hyde is a PhD candidate in the department of sociology at UBC. He grew up in Vancouver and now studies issues of housing and gentrification in Canadian cities.
The Mainlander is a publication that aims to:
- provide historical context for breaking news and events as they unfold
- unpack politicians’ spin, and provide background information needed to hold them accountable
- present facts that may help social movements and others involved in progressive politics
- translate complex, and often misleading, municipal documents and policies into language that layfolks will appreciate
The Mainlander operates through the Mainlander Writing Society, which is a registered non-profit society. We do not accept funding or seek reinforcement from real estate developers or political parties, allowing us to speak more truthfully about developers, ruling interests and political parties.
Mental Floss Image
As reported in City Lab by John Metcalfe , Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairs paired up with the City’s Department of Transportation Vision Zero team to reboot (no pun intended) how people “perceive streets”. They hired artist Alan Nakagawa as the first “Creative Catalyst Artist-in-Residence”. Nakagawa has created haiku on road signs, and other printed media. But the most interesting has been the installation of “Street Perfume” at a Mar Vista bus stop.
Mar Vista has transformed into an area of cafes, galleries and small shops. Nakagawa noted that “There are smells of coffee, food, there’s a lot of landscaping so there’s also soil. There are aromatherapy shops so you occasionally get whiffs of perfume. Then there are the sewers, the gas mains, carbon dioxide, asphalt, and all that stuff.”
So the artist created a long chrome cylinder affixed to a bus stop with the label “Try Street Perfume”. “If they’re bold enough to stick their mitts into the mystery orifice, they’re rewarded with a spritz of hyperlocal fragrance—this week’s is “Economic Development”; “Hollywood Springtime” is next week’s offering.”
Other perfumes have included “Into Town” and “Hollywood Springtime”. Nakagawa actually goes to the Institute for Art and Olfaction and creates the perfumes that are installed in the bus stop cylinder. As the Director of Vision Zero in Los Angeles notes “Alan brought a new way of problem-solving to our team. His ‘street perfumes’ project is just one of the myriad examples where he harnessed the power of art to transform space, influence design, and expose the transportation profession as something that can be fun and inviting.”
And while the perfumes are certainly in the cylinders they are there are as an art piece only. “They weren’t really designed for anybody to wear,” Nakagawa says. “They were designed to evoke conversation at a bus stop.”
Urban Edge Image-Alan Nakagawa
Sandy James Image
The Daily Hive notes that the City of Vancouver is looking for artists and designers to create “sidewalk stencils” for the sidewalks in front of commercial businesses along Mount Pleasant’s Main Street. There have been sidewalk stamps before, most notably along Heather Street between 49th and 54th Avenues. Those sidewalks stamps were chosen from images created by the Churchill Secondary School’s fine art class, and were cut into metal stencils using a plasma cutter at the City works yard. Some of the images have been so successful that they have been used in other parts of the city as well.
Sidewalks were installed on Heather Street from 49th Avenue to Marine Drive and there was the opportunity to imprint the metal stencil directly into fresh cement. In the Mount Pleasant case, a metal stencil will be prepared to sand blast an image on existing sidewalks in front of the businesses.
Designs need to be clear and crisp to contrast on the sidewalk. The City stipulates that the “designs should be 20″ x 20″ (50 cm x 50 cm) in size and based on themes relevant to the local community, such as historic creeks, art, music, pop culture, and breweries.”
Submission deadline is Friday August 18 with designs being submitted in PDF format to the City of Vancouver. Artists will be paid a small stipend and also receive recognition from the Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Association. Further information can be found here.
Daily Hive Image
Khelsilem. Located west of Main, between 5th and 6th.
[Click to enlarge]
Reference: 2017 Vancouver Mural Festival.
Carrielynn Victor “Scolder Dives For Berries”. Located west of Main, on 4th.
[Click to enlarge]
Reference: 2017 Vancouver Mural Festival.