Out the West End

21 August 2021 – “Out”? “Up”? “Into”??? By any preposition, the West End is where I’m headed as I walk north across the Burrard St. Bridge, with False Creek beneath me.

It’s a wonderful bridge, its steel-truss functionality wrapped up in Art Deco flair — all the more wonderful that they bothered with flair, given the bridge opened in 1932, deep in the Depression. And flair abounds. Just look at that ochre-coloured horizontal “gallery” down there, for example …

yes, that’s it.

Stylish as all get out, and purely decorative. It exists solely to hide some of the superstructure.

I’m not here for the bridge; this is just my entry-point to the “West End,” loosely defined as the chunk of Vancouver north of False Creek between Burrard Street and Stanley Park. I’m partly attracted by the promise of a few new murals, as part of this year’s Mural Festival, but, mostly, I’m just enjoying the fact that it’s finally good walking weather. Temperature has dropped; air quality has risen; West End … why not?

First mural hit, practically right off the bridge, just west of Burrard & south of Davie St. in Pantages Lane.

Thank you, artist Christina Boots: LOVE & a flamingo head, out on the restaurant patio.

On down the lane, between Thurlow & Bute by now, and two more heads — strictly B&W, and not a flamingo to be seen, but equally exuberant.

I head north on Bute and, right there at Davie Street, meet yet more faces. A whole line-up of faces.

This time, the faces have names. I’m looking at Elizabeth Hollick’s tribute to jazz greats in a mural that clearly has been here for quite a while. The likenesses are not all that terrific, but you can’t argue with her choice of musicians.

L to R: John Scofield, guitar; Charlie Mingus, bass; Max Roach, drums; Dizzy Gillespie, trumpet; Charlie Parker, sax; Benny Goodman, clarinet; Ella Fitzgerald, vocals; and Dave Brubek, piano. I pause a moment in tribute, but also to remember a cat named Mingus I once knew, and then continue my rambling north-west progress toward English Bay.

North now on Jervis from Davie, and I stop for this aqua butterfly, tacked to a utility pole in the lane.

This is See-em-ia Lane, and I again thank the City for its decision to add a brief fine-print explanation to each laneway sign.

You see? This lane honours Mary See-em-ia, a Matriarch of the Squamish Nation. (Thanks to the fine print, I can also tell you that Pantages Lane back there is named for Peter Pantages, Greek immigrant & restaurateur, and founder of the Vancouver Polar Bear Club. The sign doesn’t add, but Wikipedia does, that he was also nephew of Andrew Pantages, the vaudeville-circuit theatre giant.)

It’s pretty well just a head-swivel from the butterfly on up to the corner of Jervis & Pendrell, and St. Paul’s Anglican Church.

The doors are open (unexpected, in these continuing days of pandemic), and I seize the chance to go inside. It’s a heritage building, the 1905 replacement for the little 1889 church moved onto this site in 1898. The church has evolved with its times, and now embraces the LGBTQ community along with the more bourgeois middle-class of earlier days — and everybody else, for that matter.

A week-day communion service is just ending as I enter. I am struck by this. Today’s walk seems to me a continuation of the “quiet pleasures of the perfectly ordinary” that I celebrated in a recent post, an attitude powerfully expressed by John O’Donohue in a couplet in The Inner History of a Day (from, To Bless the Space Between Us).

He wrote: “We seldom notice how each day is a holy place / Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens.”

The eucharist of the ordinary! It has been all around me, all day — and here is a religious eucharist, to join it.

The rector welcomes me, invites me to stay for the post-communion coffee gathering and is smilingly gracious when I explain that, thank you, I plan to keep on walking. But first, I want him to tell me about this glorious organ, and he is happy to oblige.

Yes! a Casavant. I am a groupie for Casavant Frères, the Quebec company that has been building organs since 1879, and I start squeaking with excitement. Known as Opus 264 and installed in 1906, this one is the oldest extant Casavant in BC. It is not in use today, but I don’t care. It is enough to know it exists and, like its sibling in St. James in the downtown east side, it has been meticulously restored & revoiced and will have a long life yet.

Back out to the street, back to working my way north-west, and here I am at Broughton & Henshaw Lane.

I love everything about this building: its architecture, its community-centre function, its artwork, its welcoming signage. And I love the laneway signage too, you bet, which explains that this lane honours Julia Henshaw — author, botanist, and alpinist.

Eventually I make it to Davie just off Denman, right at Morton Park (home to A-Maze-ing Laughter) and English Bay.

A new tower is rearing up just over there, across the street, with artwork top to toe.

And I can’t tell you anything about it! I don’t weave through enough traffic to snoop around its base for any possible info. I don’t think it’s Mural Festival, and the Festival map is maddeningly vague, so we’ll just have to let the visuals speak for themselves.

One more mural, just a block or so away. This one is indeed a 2021 Festival addition, the work of Coast Salish artist Sinàmkin (Jody Bloomfield). Since he belongs to the Squamish Nation, it is fitting that his mural is right at the Denman end of See-em-ia Lane, which we’ve already learned is named for a matriarch of that Nation.

I turn back. Time to head east once again.

I look up at the neighbourhood banner with appreciation.

To again quote John O’Donohue, the West End has offered me “the eucharist of the ordinary” all day long, and I am grateful.

Murals & Time Travel

10 August 2021 – I have murals on the mind and in my eyeballs; the 2021 Vancouver Mural Festival is underway. I am wandering around Mount Pleasant, epi-centre of the Festival that began as a small movement in 2016 and now — with a magic happy combination of civic, social/artistic and local business support — has 300+ murals to its credit in 11 neighbourhoods, with another 60+ due to be created this year.

But not created yet, so my time travel is spent with works already in place.

And it starts with one that, far as I can see, has no connection with the VMF, no signature of any kind. Well, that doesn’t matter, does it? Especially since I’ve never noticed it before.

I prowl around it happily for a while, and then notice, down in the lower-left corner, that its sight-lines shoot my eye on down West 7th toward a flash of colour near Ontario Street — colour that I know is another mural, and one that definitely is part of the VMF family.

See? ‘Way down there?

But there’s another mural treat along the way, two tucked into that same block between Manitoba & Ontario.

We’ll get to the one on the right; first please admire that garage door. Like the first mural I showed you, not signed, but isn’t it terrific? It belongs to Green Works Building Supply, and seems a logical fit with their environmentally responsible sensibilities. I’m especially fond of the slogan on the door:

Enough of that, on to Cosmic Breeze down at Ontario, the work of Olivia Di Liberto for VMF 2019.

This next image is not a mural, doesn’t in any way fit my apparent theme, unless you’re generous enough to slide with me into my larger “city-as-art-installation” theme. If you are that generous, we can make a case for “berries ripening on wild vines climbing all over chain-link fence beside barbed wire & scruffy wall.”

Back to murals. I’ve loved this one since I watched Atheana Picha painting it during VMF 2018, love it still, and love viewing it in its alley-corner framework, here on Ontario south of West 6th.

This next one is streetscape, not mural — wall plus front façade, framed sides/top/bottom by textures of grey and photographed through construction fencing. The only ID is that austere Tierney Milne lower right, so elegant I wonder if this is the branding of a design house.

No it’s not, I later discover: she is a Montreal-born, Vancouver-resident designer/artist. She also, I further discover in the VMF Mural Gallery, has participated in several of the festivals, though this building seems unrelated to all that.

That diversion had me back on West 6th between Ontario & Quebec, now I’m climbing south on Ontario toward West 7th, taking in the whole long frantic madness of an epic 2018 creation by a collective with the world’s best team name: Phantoms in the Front Yard. The work is the whole side-wall length of this long building, jammed with people, cats, dogs, wine glasses, action & attitude. I’ve shown you bits before, and I see new bits every time I walk past.

This bit, for example, bottom left corner, with the woman all thumb’s up in gesture but thumb’s down in face:

Always so satisfying to see something new!

I look across the street, and while the image isn’t new for me, I’d guess by body language that is both new and fascinating for that lanky pedestrian just entering frame on the left.

He is puzzling out Animalitoland, a VMF 2020 creation by Graciela Gonçalves Da Silva, which features — along with that puckish face — an A-Z list of neatly printed adjectives, running the gamut of our emotions as we lived that year of isolation and pandemic.

In describing her mural, Da Silva comments: “Street art is so much more than paint on walls. It has a unique way of connecting people…”

I don’t know this quote when I pull out my camera again, deep in the alleys S/W of East 7th & Main. I’m not thinking murals at all at this point; I am just captivated by that H-frame, rearing up into the sky. (I love them all, you know that — but this one especially, the way it pivots smartly at a 45° to accommodate the intersection.)

Then I’m back in mural-gear, because a mural wraps that corner as neatly as the H-frame beside it.

This is Why Can’t They See Us? by Doaa Jamal, VMF 2018, the rendering in Arabic square Kufic script of a verse from the Qur’an: “We have created you from male and female and made you into tribes and nations that you may know each other.”

Connection. Despite tribes and nations and pandemic: connection.

Back to Baffled Brains

Several people were kind enough to send me definitions of blockchain, including Lynette d’Artey-Cross. Here’s an excerpt from her contribution (which you can read in its entirety in post comments): “essentially a digital ledger of transactions that is duplicated across the entire network of computer systems on the blockchain.” Since that post, the Vancouver Biennale has been advertising for volunteers to train on the AR/blockchain aspects of Voxel Bridge, who will then serve as serve as hosts at the installation, and help the rest of us enter into it more fully.

  • 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"

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