Boots

12 October 2017 – There we are, prancing along in our citified walking boots, and there they are.

Construction worker boots. Well-used & apparently abandoned, beneath a handsome bench next to the handsome landscaping around one of the new condo towers clustered at the north end of the Granville St. bridge.

The worker boots are just as appropriate as the bench, though, because new buildings are going up all the time.

Including this one!

I know. Upside-down and everything.

Meet Vancouver House-in-the making, a star project of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), with condos above and retail below, the latter nicely scooped out to a 30-m. set-back from the bridge on/off ramps.

We go “Wow” and then our personal boots — worn by my Delightful Young Relation (DYR) & me — prance on.

It’s a day for discoveries. First the impossible-to-describe, very high-tech Fly Over Canada spectacle in Canada Place — thank you for the treat, DYR. Then from high- to low-tech, namely our boots on pavement as we walk south from Burrard Inlet to False Creek. Making discoveries as we go.

This outsized table & chairs in Mae and Lorne Brown Park, for example.

A confession. I know the bright-rust shrubs are that colour because they’re dead — but, still, even so, aren’t they pretty? Isn’t that green/rust contrast very pleasing to the eye?

But so is GRANtable, a madcap sculpture created by Pechet + Robb on commission from Parks & Rec for the City of Vancouver.

DYR lines it all up through a viewing aperture in the chair; I line him up, lining it up.

Plan A had been to catch a ferry once we hit False Creek (because I do love those ferries), but when we get there, we morph into Plan B instead. The weather is so appealing, and our boots are so made for walking … So we walk. Initially eastward on the north side of False Creek, which will in time take us around the curve to the south side (home turf for us both).

Still on the north side, a series of kiosks along the pathways, the words resonating — says an online page about False Creek art — with “the site’s natural and industrial history.”

I’m puzzled by some of the references, captivated by others. Somebody, please, tell me about that red caboose!

Almost to the stub end of False Creek now, approaching BC Place Stadium, and we gawk at the just-unveiled Parq [sic] Vancouver Casino.

Still finishing touches. Two ant-sized humans up there, see them?

One sitting on the roof, legs dangling; one partway up the façade, undoubtedly fitting something to something.

A casino, and a fine fit with the rust-by-design component of my recent R is for Rust post…

More rust soon after, this time rust-by-time, when I lean over DYR’s balcony for a bird’s eye view of The Flats — the industrial expanse just east of Main St., pretty well level with the end of False Creek.

And a nice contrast too, between the battered old building on the left, and the gussied up, be-muralled beauty on the right — but both of them equally workhorse, both of them warehouses.

I tuck down to water’s edge again, immediately behind the Telus World of Science building, to admire the curve of pilings at Creek-end, and the marine-life silhouettes glinting silver atop each one.

Westward now, along the south shore of the Creek. I’m approaching Hinge Park, my head full of fall and fall colours and fall odours and fall events.

I do not anticipate ice.

Great slabs of ice. Ice-as-art. Who would?

But there it is.

Oh, don’t even ask, I have no idea. No little signboard to explain what he’s up to, and no interaction by Ice Artist Guy with his mesmerized audience.

And they are indeed mesmerized. Especially Pretzel Woman.

After a bit, I smack myself upside the head, and walk on.

 

 

Reading in the Rain

1 October 2017 – First assignment, read this.

Oh good. Now that any lurking drones have buzzed off and we are all human together, let’s go read some art.

In the rain.

I first learned about “reading” visuals as well as text from listening in on art-director conversations. They wanted images to make sense, to be visually “readable,” at a specific distance or range of distances.

A billboard next to a busy expressway, for example, designed for passing motorists, has different readability criteria than a notice posted at a street corner for pedestrians to read as they wait for the lights to change.

Public art, ideally, will “read” at a range of distances, appropriate to each site and its work of art. Emilie Crewe, the young artist leading our tour of Burrard Corridor public art, uses Douglas Coupland’s Digital Orca as her first illustration of this principle.

There it is, leaping majestically and eternally at one waterfront corner of Jack Poole Plaza, today bathed in mist and rain. At this distance, it is one smooth graphic image. It reads beautifully, even from afar, even in the rain.

We move in, closer.

The work — as iconic as perhaps only a Vancouver native could hope to create — still reads, but differently. The aluminum cladding begins to assert its pixellated nature. The flowing curves break into craggy surfaces, each pixel dancing with its neighbours.

Emilie spins us around to Bon Voyage Plaza, another spatial subset within this same overall Convention Centre footprint. We’re about to read The Drop — a 65-foot polyurethane raindrop by Berlin’s Inges Idee, angled toward the harbour.

Today is the day for a raindrop.

 

Reads very well at a distance, and with the same power up close — even though, unlike Digital Orca, there’s no shape-shifting involved.

This is all great fun, despite the rain.

Hmmm. Maybe the fact I add that “despite” proves I am not yet truly Vancouverite. (As in, “Yes, it’s raining. And your point is …?”)

Next  up, a work of art that we get to read in the old-fashioned sense of the word. It is pure text — Lying on Top of a Building, the words wrapped around multiple floors of two sides of the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel.

I don’t photograph it this time, but if you’re curious, revisit my 22 June post, The Art of Quote-Unquote, to see and read (that word again) more about this 2008 installation by the British artist, Liam Gillick.

Then Emilie leads us to something wonderful, even more wonderful because I didn’t know it existed until she pointed it out.

At first, it’s not all that wonderful. Fine, I think, handsome set of axes and rectangles, very rectilinear and spare, OK-good.

Then Emilie adds, “Unfortunately, we’re here on a weekend, so it won’t be working.” Working? I ask myself, a thought bubble barely formed before Emilie bursts it with, “Oh! It is working! Somebody must be in the office today.”

So please look again. That far right low rectangle, resting on the horizontal, has just descended from higher up its vertical.

Each rectangle represents one elevator in Environment Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans here at 401 Burrard Street. Every time someone takes an elevator, up or down, the corresponding rectangle makes the corresponding trip out here on the sculpture. Canadian Alan Storey calls the piece, Public Service / Private Step, and is that not the perfect title?

So I am charmed.

And equally charmed to visit another of his works, a sculpture called Broken Column (Pendulum), which dominates the multi-storey lobby of the HSBC building at 885 West Georgia.

I’ve seen it before, the massive (and motorized) pendulum swinging slowly and silently to and fro. Weekends, though, this one really is motionless.

Which allows me to appreciate the lines of the sculpture itself …

rather than sit entirely focused on & peacefully mesmerized by its motion.

Several more interim works, splish-splosh, and a grand finale in Robson Square. I have visited this space before, I’ve always really liked it — and I have never, until this moment, noticed Spring.

Not as in, a season of the year. Or, a coil. Or, a single dreadlock. Or even a Slinky-toy…

No. As in, Alan Chung Hung’s massive red steel sculpture that likes to pretend it supports the upper level of this public square.

Enjoy the coil, and please also notice the neat rectangular border of light grey. Today’s weather makes this an interactive piece: the light rectangle is dry, protected by upper-level beams from the rain that darkens the pavement, either side.

And while you’re busy noticing things, please peer into the murk, to the right rear of the sculpture. Yes! Vaguely humanoid shapes.

It’s a whole line-up of dancing fools — girls plus instructor, gyrating away to their music (kept respectfully low).

Isn’t this fine? Lots and lots of very permanent public art pieces, with  a passing moment of performance art thrown in.

Just because.

 

R is for Rust

28 September 2017 – Rust is on my mind, as I angle north/east-ish toward Dance House , this bright fall day, to discuss the volunteer communications project I’m about to begin.

Rust, a signature colour in nature each fall — and rust, a signature colour in metal, by time or design.

I see both, abundantly, in my zigzag travels along False Creek and then farther east to the trendifying old industrial area now home to Dance House, other creative organizations and, just this month, Emily Carr University as well.

First, as I hit 1st Avenue just west of Hinge Park, an example of rust-by-time.

I love the transformation of south-east False Creek from brownfield to green space — but I also love this battered survivor of the area’s industrial past. Toxic as it surely all was, it met the standards of the day and helped meet needs of the day.

And while that building has wrecking-ball written all over it, sections of old railway track right next door in Hinge Park will survive.

Rusty by time, but preserved by design, and rightly so. We need to honour the past.

Note, too, some companion rust-by-nature in the shrubbery, and just a glimpse, there in the middle-back, of my beloved “Rusty Sub.”

I round a corner.

More rusty leaves, to keep the sub company, and rushes turning tawny in the meandering little stream.

Then I’m down at Creek-side, right where Habitat Island juts into the water, and I start to laugh.

Looks like “R” has to slip-slide its way back up the dictionary from Rust, to Repose!

Goodness, he is so peaceful, chest rising/falling gently, relaxed in the still-warm afternoon sun. And, all around him, rust-by-nature in the shrubbery.

Lots more rust, all over the tree leaves that still half-obscure the Green Path signage. (Pedestrians this side; cyclists that.)

I’m almost at the end of False Creek now, right by The Village ferry dock, with its view of BC Place sports stadium on the north side and, to its left, a distinctly rusty-coloured building façade.

No ferry in sight at the moment, but I console myself with that bright red tug boat. I do love tug boats!

Still on 1st Avenue, just west of Main, and some more rust-by-design in the courtyard of a spiffy new condo complex.

Very minimalist, very appealing: the rich tones of the metal, the burble of the falling water, and sunshine & breeze teaming up to dance shadows on the wall.

On east I go, and I’m early for my appointment.

I wander on down to the cul-de-sac where East 1st Ave. does a dog-leg into a chain-metal fence along the cross-town train tracks.

Boxcars! Lovely rust-coloured boxcars!

With graffiti! (Bonus points)

See the young women sketching away down there, next to the inner fence right at the tracks? Students from Emily Carr next door, out on assignment. There are a dozen or more in the immediate vicinity, under the watchful eye of their man-bunn’d instructor, who circulates from one to the next, commenting as he deems appropriate.

And then I go meet Charlotte at Dance House, and we chat on the building green roof with its 180-degree view of the mountains, and we stroke a very insistent white cat as we talk — who assumes our adoration and so receives it, but that is another story — and finally I head south/west-ish back home.

Where, in an alley just east of Main, the letter “R” does another slip-slide and lands on the word “Retro.”

A wonderfully retro design, complete with the words “Todos borrachos aquí,” and … and don’t bother asking, I can’t explain it. No sign of a cantina, just an autobody shop.

But it’s fun.

 

The Crab & the Golf Ball

15 September 2017 – For just one giddy moment, I want you to imagine a crab playing golf.

Now you must relinquish that image.

There is no golf ball in today’s adventure. Even though Frances instructs me to meet her “in front of the golf ball.”

She means this.

So I take myself off to the front doors of the building that punctuates the east end of False Creek, and faces Main Street, just beyond — the Telus World of Science, known locally as “the golf ball.” (And how chuffed am I, to learn this bit of slang!)

Not only am I denying you a real golf ball, I’m copping out on any real crabs as well. We are now going to march right up Main Street — up-up-up, northward through Chinatown, Gastown, the downtown Eastside — to tiny Crab Park, smack at the end of the road, on Burrard Inlet.

 

As consolation, let me offer you a lion and some giraffes, enroute.

The lion is one of several on the overpass over the railway tracks and Waterfront Rd., which curls us down into the park. He, and the rest of his stone pride, are a 1995 gift from the Shanghai Port Authority, to mark the sister-port relationship between these two cities.

The giraffes … What, you don’t see the giraffes? Look just left of the lion’s head.

More slang, this time perhaps unique to my friends Jai and Guninder, whom I visited recently in North Van. We were at Lonsdale Quay at one point, looking south to downtown, with Jai pointing out some of the buildings — along with the orange “giraffes,” i.e. the cranes that lift containers on and off the cargo ships.

I teach “giraffe” to Frances. It is the least I can do, in return for the gift of “golf ball” and a first trip to this magic little park. Just 2.5 hectares, caught between the tracks and the harbour, relatively unvisited, and so a peaceful spot from which to observe a busy harbour and North Vancouver just across the way.

Later, I learn that I am piling not-real upon not-real.

The real name of Crab Park is Portside Park, and even at that, it is not really a park (says Scout Magazine), it is green space on long-term loan from the Port Authority. And… and … the “crab” is no reference to crustaceans, it is an acronym honouring the Create a Real Available Beach committee that hounded the city into creating this little oasis, back in the early 1980s.

We don’t know all this at the time, Frances & I, we just enjoy the peace & the beauty, this sparkling fall day. Looking back west on the downtown side, for example, with the “sails” of Canada Place anchoring the view.

Right in front of us, all those busy little boats; beyond them, the orange giraffes and the containers, stacked up like LEGO in this container terminal. One giraffe full upright; two with long necks bent to the task at hand.

I stare at the containers. As once I trekked across the highlands of Iceland, agreeing with the colleague who murmured, “We’re walking through a Lauren Harris painting,” now I murmur: “That’s an Edward Burtynsky photograph.”

And that, immediately above, really is a Burtynsky photograph — an example of one theme this renowned large-format Canadian photographer has pursued in his continuing exploration of human activity and its consequences for the land itself.

We head back across the overpass, with one last look at the terminal …

a look at the railway tracks below …

and a sudden halt. To read, and respect, what happened right here, on 3 June 1935.

All peaceful now.

Gentrifying, in fact, rather like Toronto’s Port Lands. Where once those desperate young men milled about, grabbing at boxcars, we now see tiny verdant oases, their green curtains climbing high on adjacent walls.

Frances peels off that way; I carry on this way, somewhat at random, but overall zigzagging myself south and slightly west-ish. My route brings me to Cathedral Square, opposite Holy Rosary Cathedral at Richards & Dunsmuir.

And … to another piano!

Two young women playing this one, to a backdrop of café tables with human bottoms in almost every chair. (“Enjoy the sun,” I overhear one doleful soul tell his companion. “It’s gonna rain for seven months.”)

I do enjoy the sun. I turn from the piano/tables south end of the Square, and sit on a bench facing north. I blink lazily, the way my beloved Racket-cat would blink when particularly pleased with life, taking in the sight of the water, the sound of the water, and the dramatic shadows cast by that soon-to-disappear sunshine.

It is all very nice indeed.

Bonus! 

Your philosophic thought for the day, courtesy of this mural at Manitoba & West 3rd, which I discovered while heading for the golf ball.

The last few words are obscured by shadow. It says:

Every exit

is an entry

somewhere else

Recti/Curvi – Linear

8 September 2017 – Straight lines and curvy lines, in other words.

And they don’t come much straighter than this.

Yes, the sewer cover itself is round, thus curvy, but its design (if we may dignify the imprint as such) is very, very straight-line.

Brett Lockwood, in his eclectic and perceptive WordPress blog, O’Canada, recently had a whole post about heritage sewer covers.

This is not a heritage cover.

Even so, it is on display at the Museum of Vancouver for a purpose. The MOV, dedicated to helping us connect more deeply with the city, wants us to think about grids, and what they mean.

The display then muses about straight lines, and curving lines. What do they tell us about the cultures that use them, favour one over the other?

Consider this other Vancouver sewer cover — the work of Musqueam artists Susan Point and Kelly Cannell, commissioned by the City in 2004.

Curvilinear indeed, and deeply meaningful.

The whole rectilinear / curvilinear dynamic enters my mind — indeed, my way of connecting with the city — more deeply than I realize at the time. A few days later, my friend Louise and I are on University of British Columbia grounds, visiting first the Museum of Anthropology and, later, the UBC Botanical Garden.

I stand by the reflecting pond, I look at the magnificent MOA building — so perfectly “nestled in its landscape” as its architect, Arthur Erickson, pointed out — and I am struck by its lines.

Its bold rectilinear lines.

The reflecting pond is all gentle curves, the pathways as well, also the grassy hummock framed by those pathways. But oh, that building.

I see, too, how it echoes the post-and-beam construction of traditional Northwest Coast Aboriginal buildings — and of the mid-20th century sculpture complex in this compound, with its poles and buildings, the work of leading contemporary First Nations artists.

First you see the post-and-beam, the powerful horizontals & verticals. But then you also see the curve of the eyes, the other curves of the carved figures. And you think — well, I think — that perhaps, yes, we do reconcile the curving and the rectilinear, both often and well.

But for that MOV exhibit, I would never have noticed, never have thought about it.

Louise & I walk on down Marine Drive — 17,000 footsteps that day, I want you to know! — to visit two more UBC attractions, both of them part of one entity, the UBC Botanical Garden.

First, the Nitobe Memorial Garden, considered one of the most authentic outside Japan.

The gentle arch of the bridge, made oval by its own reflection. And, to the right, among the trees, the strong, simple, straight lines of the Tea House.

On to the main site of the Botanical Garden, where we follow our whim to its northern lobe, the North Gardens. This route takes us through the Moon Gate.

By now you’re seeing with my eye, aren’t you! Horizontals & verticals, powerful & rectilinear.

And then, drawing the eye and the feet, the distant curve of the moon gate.

Once there, again by whim, we search out the Physic Garden. It is small, beautiful, enclosed by the straight lines of its traditional yew hedge. The garden itself, a showcase of the medicinal plants of medieval Europe, contains 12 concentric beds, with a sundial at the centre.

Curve upon curve — but also the triangular gnomon (pointer), arrowing the sun’s faint shadow straight-line to 2 p.m.

I do take the MOV point about conflicting symbolisms, in those grid vs curving sewer covers.

But I also take heart in all the subsequent evidence that we do often, both in architecture and in nature, reconcile the curve and the rectilinear very nicely indeed.

Not-Toronto Alley

31 August 2017 – No, no! You do not go looking for one city in another, judging the latter by how much it does, or doesn’t, resemble the former.

So I am slightly embarrassed to confess that this alley immediately reminds me of Toronto alleys that I have walked & loved.

But it is not Toronto.

It is Vancouver. Lower east side Vancouver (between W. Cordova & W. Hastings, and Richards & Homer).

Still, it is very reminiscent, is it not?

I am a tad nostalgic, as I watch this old fellow pause to light his cigarette and then slowly wander on his way.

A whole lotta paint on this walls. No wonder this aerosol can is lying flat, exhausted.

(The cat, of course, would not dream of slumping in exhaustion.)

Even a bare pole isn’t quite bare.

I haven’t seen this little red Angry-Mask before, but suspect it has been pinned to many other surfaces as well.

On the pavement beneath my feet, more art work.

 

Then there’s Peek-a-Boo, with Dumpster. (Vincent Van Gogh Division.)

And Peek-a-Boo, with Truck.

And Peek-a-Boo, with Shoulder.

I emerge.

And pretty soon, on the edge of Gastown, I’m enjoying a different vista entirely.

On the right, the 1910 Dominion Building, Vancouver’s first steel-framed high-rise (once the British Empire’s tallest building); on the left, and wonderfully sympathetic in its architecture, a market-price residential tower in the redeveloped Woodward’s complex.

Definitely not Toronto! Definitely Vancouver.

 

“W” for Music

27 August 2017 – Well, yes, “W” for Music is a bit of a stretch — but not if you turn the “W” upside down.

Like this.

Very M-ish, don’t you think?

However, that large & peeling old metal letter really is a “W.”

Like this.

For Woodward’s.

Woodward’s, which was Vancouver’s top shopping destination for ages after the building’s completion in 1903, but which, as institutions do, fell from grace in later economic downturns, and finally, in 2006, fell literally to the ground in a demolition and redevelopment project that attracted a great deal of bitter controversy.

The “W” that once rode high above the original building is now honoured at ground level — a fitting art installation in the public plaza in a complex that now also includes market & non-market housing units, retail shopping, green space, government offices, a daycare and an addition to the Simon Fraser University downtown campus.

It also includes, on four Sundays over this summer, free public music concerts sponsored by the Hard Rubber New Music Society — a collective of 18 musicians, founded in 1990 by John Korsrud, and an ensemble much given to commissioning new works.

Each evening concert is preceded by an afternoon open rehearsal. I attended the first two solo; today I’m joined by my great friend Sally. Each concert has a theme; this one is Voices.

It all takes place in the soaring Woodward’s Atrium that links two parts of the complex. We climb a spiral staircase for the overview.

Yes, that is a turquoise piano in the background. And yes, it is hitched to a bicycle. And yes, it was right there for the previous Spacious Music at the Atrium events as well.

But no, the turquoise piano is not in use. See? The pianist is at her own keyboard, having a quick pre-rehearsal rehearsal with one of the singers.

No wonder they’re hard at it. Jordan Nobles wrote a new work, Memento Mori, for the occasion, and this is the first time the singers have seen it.

Seated at ground level, for a moment I look up and out, up-up-up at a tower that is part of this new complex …

and then start paying proper attention to the rehearsal.

Hard Rubber founder John Korsrud prowls quietly in the background, as he does at every concert, here lingering behind the pianist.

The conductor begins working with the singers & pianist, turning notations on paper into sound waves and pleasure.

It is of course unworthy of me, shamefully trivial, but I cannot help noticing how the turquoise glint in the sunglasses on that guy’s forehead (2nd from right) tones so perfectly with his neighbour’s shirt.

No such distractions this side. I just listen. (Just!!! As if anything more were needed…)

Musicians curve toward their drop-in audience; we curve toward them. The music swirls, and rises.

And, in time, Sally & I slip out, heading for the near-by Flack Block.

It’s an outburst of Romanesque Revival extravagance, the must-have style when Thomas Flack commissioned the building in 1898, fresh back from a very successful visit to the Klondike gold fields.

It too fell from grace in later decades but, unlike the Woodward building, was fully restored (2006), not demolished.

And has the gargoyles to prove it.

It also now has the Vancouver outlet of Purebread (a Whistler-based family bakery).

So … all honour to the gargoyles, but our focus is coffee n’ treats.

Gallery Lane

18 August 2017 – Not named on any City-issued map of Vancouver, but right there on the Muralfest map: “Gallery Lane.” I’m back, the day after the big party, to explore what I missed the first time around. Judging by all the bright red dots on the map, I missed a whole lot, up and down the Lane.

So in I slide, dropping north from East Broadway into the alley between Quebec Street & Main. Right away I love it, it’s all grungy and eye-popping at the same time. A poster for the Mural Festival, its backdrop a tired old fire escape on the corner building…

Two more steps into the alley, and paff! A dumpster. A dumpster as set upon by Oksana Gaidasheva and Emily Gray, leaping with colour and life.

I practically fall into that corner owl, as mesmerized as any unlucky field mouse by those glaring eyes.

This starts well! I am happy.

On down the alley I go, prowling, pausing, cocking a head & a hip, again  & again.

Side trip just north of East 8th, to the Wrkless face at the end of a short cul-de-sac.

Look how it’s framed! Every element just right, stairs & security lights & wheelies & litter & windows & walls. The perfect streetscape art installation.

And now, just for the next few images, I want you to flip between this post and its predecessor, Main-ly Murals. ‘Cause we’re now in the East 7th & Main parking lot — bounded on the west by Gallery Lane — where, on Saturday, I showed you all those parking slots being turned into works of art.

Yes, cars are back in the lot, but the art still dances.

And yes, the women I photographed lifting the stencil off their car-slot left behind something terrific.

And yes! It turns out those kids creating the text mural knew all about apostrophes after all.

I fussed away, in the previous post, at their initial “Its” instead of “It’s.”

Well.

I am happy to show the world that I misjudged them.

A short conversation with a woman who carefully parks in a non-decorated slot & wields her own camera, and then on I go, north again in Gallery Lane.

I stand at East 4th, look back south, and have to stretch wide my eyes.

Behind the parking lot on the right, Andy Dixon’s big mural. Wrapped all around the building on the left, mural work by a team: Bronwyn Schuster, Lani Imre, Tia Rambaran, Amanda Smart.

One of the things I like best is that all this art becomes part of the working city. The alley is purely functional: vehicles block your view, mural segments painted across doorways disappear every time a truck has to drive into the garage.

And, all around, City workers are collecting trash, and pruning trees — here at the Main St. corner of that blue mural-wrapped building shown above.

I spin on my heel, head north again, bounded on my left by Jane Cheng’s blue-&-white fence work.

Across East 3rd, and I’m in Bunny & Bear territory.Thank you Carson Ting.

Also — did you notice? — another ripped T-shirt hanging on a utility pole.

I’ve noticed 4 or 5 by now, so it wasn’t the one-off that I thought on Saturday when I saw, literally, only one.

And the T-shirts are not all pure white, the art limited to careful rips & tears.

Which reminds me: I am hungry.

I head home.

I Dally with Dance

7 July 2017 – But first,  I Dalí with dance.

As in Salvador; as in Dance of Time I.

I’m not even a Salvador Dalí enthusiast, and have seen more soft-clock iterations over the decades than I care to think about … but, still … there is something arresting about this whopping (390 kg, 213 cm high) bronze sculpture smack downtown near Howe & West Pender.

And I am quite charmed when I read the plaque. First, it’s the real thing, not a knock-off: one of an edition of eight (+ six proofs) first cast in 1984. Second, it is well-travelled: it has already been exhibited in such cities as Paris, Shanghai, Singapore, Mexico City, Venice & Taipei. Third, the Chali-Rosso Art Gallery here in Vancouver has arranged for it to be on display in this city for 150 days, to celebrate Canada’s 150 years of nationhood.

So that’s all good, and anyway (fourth…), I’m always in favour of public art.

Which explains my delight just a day later, when I’m again scurrying through downtown, this time to dally with dance.

It’s opening night of the 29th annual Dancing on the Edge festival, a performance by the Beijing Modern Dance Company of their work, Oath-Midnight Rain.

I cut through the alley just south of West Hastings off Granville … and look! It’s public art! Even better: alley art!

Vancouver-style.

I’d seen this alley once before, during my winter visit, but had forgotten where it was located. Now, in summer warmth, I can linger comfortably.

I’m not the only one lingering, or the only one with a camera, either — but the rest are more into selfies & each-other shots.

Are you following the dynamics here? Yellow Shirt Guy is taking a picture of White Shirt Guy … who is too busy watching those young women to mug for the camera.

But the young women are oblivious to his interest …

because they are too busy checking their own photos.

This is good! It shows that Alley Oop is doing what it is supposed to do: turn an ugly, strictly utilitarian, unpleasant alley into a place that welcomes people, and encourages them to use it, and have fun in the process.

Thank the DVBIA (Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association) for the idea & the funding; thank HCMA Architecture + Design for the transformation.

This one opened in September 2016, apparently two more are planned.

Before the project, this alley averaged 30 people per hour; now, 73. Before, 6 vehicles; now, down to three. Before, mostly men walked through here; now, the gender split is pretty well even.

Not the kind of alley art I’m used to, and that’s just fine, too. What’s the point of going somewhere else, if you want it to be exactly like the place you left?

I check my watch, realize I better copy this fast-moving couple …

and get on with my own Dance of Time.

Time to meet Sally, have a quick pub supper, and head for the Firehall.

As in, the Firehall Arts Centre, which was Vancouver’s first firehall when it opened in 1906 and stayed in use until the mid-1970s, but has been repurposed as an arts centre since 1982.

We dally on the patio for a moment, with its bright picnic tables and end-wall mural …

and then move inside for the performance.

Oath-Midnight Rain is really, really good. (Photo from Dancing on the Edge website.)

To keep something like this going for 29 years? And to have this level of quality?

Bravo, Donna Spencer and team.

 

 

Swell, Scruffy, Swell

25 June 2017 – And all in one day, too, neatly sandwiched. No surprise about the “swell” that began & ended the day: I’m talking about yesterday, which was Doors Open Vancouver, a day designed to showcase notable city buildings for residents & visitors alike. The surprise was the “scruffy” in between — and an even more surprising (to me) correlation with the later “swell.”

I leave home with a limited Doors Open agenda, limited by the fact that I’m not free to trot around town all day; I am an afternoon DOV volunteer, and decide I can only fit in one morning visit — the very swell Orpheum Theatre. A 1927 movie theatre with the exotically luxurious details of the day, it followed the usual arc of such theatres & by 1973 was on the verge of being gutted & turned into a hive of mini-theatres. Various public & private sector heroes rode to the rescue; it is today completely refurbished, a National Historic Site, and a much-cherished, well-used theatre.

My afternoon shift is in an equally swell structure, the Scotiabank Dance Centre, which opened in 2001. This, by contrast, is an example of a 1920s building (a branch of the bank) that was gutted, save for the façade, with the footprint brilliantly reinvented by Arthur Erickson and Architectura as an 8-storey complex of dance rehearsal and performance studios.

So as I head south on Seymour St., late morning, I am still dazzled by the Orpheum and eager for the Dance Centre. My mind is in Swell Mode.

And then I see this.

Oh, my dears.

Even though I strongly suspect the whole thing is a joke, a carefully spelled-out joke, it’s a terrific joke & I laugh. The black-gloved broad is pretty terrific too…

So my humour is even better as I loop around a bit, and find myself on Granville nearing Davie — and therefore the Dance Centre as well. My mind is back in Swell Mode, I an anticipating the architectural pleasure to come.

Then I glance to the right, where there is a staircase down into a sunken sliver of parking lot. And I see this, and of course I nip right down those stairs.

We are back to scruffy! Not recently-commissioned, high-class parking lot street art by a name-brand artist. No. Definitely old, & peeling. Scruffy.

But it still has charater.

With a space ship, for example, or perhaps bumble bee, take your pick …

and some kind of critter, beckoning me on.

And he really does lead me on, because he is at the corner where this parking lot feeds into an alley.

I peer around the edge, looking toward Davie.

Perfect!

There are parrots soaring over skyscrapers …

and an inscrutable face over a dumpster …

and a bit of Alley Philosophy, to Make You Think.

I’m laughing like anything when I emerge on Davie — all the more so, given I am almost dead opposite the entrance to the Dance Centre, and I like the juxtaposition a lot. I even consider jay-walking (will I never renounce my bad Toronto habits?), but opt for a demure legal crossing at the street corner instead.

And look, virtue is rewarded.

I discover why those two parrots are fluttering around the alley.

At the time, I’m just pleased to get the reference. And admire another bit of neon art.

Later, online, I learn that the ground floor of this 1890s building was the Bank of Nova Scotia local branch from 1912 to 1929.

When it moved to the Bank’s fabulous new building, right across the street.

Which, in the 1990s, was donated by the Bank to the project that was to retain the façade, incorporate the name, and transform the footprint into the new Scotiabank Dance Centre.

Where I spend a very swell afternoon.

 

 

 

  • WALKING… & SEEING

    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

  • Recent Posts

  • Walk, Talk, Rock… B.C.-style

  • Post Categories

  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 80,680 hits
  • Since 14 August 2014

    Flag Counter
  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,500 other followers

%d bloggers like this: