August 2009

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on August 26, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Our Velo-City exhibit is now in its final days, but it’s not going away quietly… This weekend we’re playing host to two bicycle-inspired music events. The first is a concert by The Receptionists, the self-described “bike-courier band from Van city.” Their frontman is Toby Alford, whose portrait and fixie bike are featured in the exhibit. (To the uninitiated: a fixie bike is one without gears and brakes. The ride is somewhat comparable to that of a skateboard’s—and just as unforgiving). For a preview of the set list, listen in on their MySpace page, linked here. The concert happens at the Museum this Friday (August 28); doors open at 8 p.m. Bonus: it’s half-price night, so tickets go for $5.50; click here to buy them now.

The next day, MOV and Momentum magazine host the last Vancouver stop on the simply named, and rather ’70s-inspired, Bicycle Music Festival. This is the last leg of the San Francisco-based festival’s west coast tour. There are nine bands and performers in the lineup, and everyone shares a pedal-powered sound system (pictured above) that’s transported by a bicycle-hauled trailer from place to place. Admission to the festival is free, and there’s a beer garden and food available for purchase. See Momentum’s Facebook page linked here for more info on the festival’s other Vancouver tour stops, and a complete list of performers. Our event gets underway here at 5 p.m. and winds down around 10 p.m. Velo-City will be kept open late that night, and all festival goers receive 50% off admission upon showing their bike helmet at Visitor Services. So, deals to be had, music to heard… We hope you can swing by.

Image credit: The Receptionists

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on August 25, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Quick post. Some months ago, I spotted this on Poppytalk—the excellent local design blog—and saved the image to my desktop. It was designed by Jeff Gluck, a student at the Ramapo College of New Jersey, and earned silver at Mississippi State University’s annual Pix(elated!) competition.

Every time I look at this, I’m amazed by how foreign it seems. It’s been well over four years since the official 2010 Winter Games logo was unveiled, and, love it or hate it, the colourful inukshuk is such a part of the scenery here that all other interpretations are startling somehow.

(p.s. If you’ve stumbled upon other unofficial 2010 logos, post a comment with the link.)

Image credit: Poppytalk

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on August 25, 2009 at 12:13 pm

We’re about to dramatically shift gears here: Velo-City closes September 7; on October 22,Ravishing Beasts opens. The Museum goes from a look at local cycling culture to exploring the history and present-day revival of taxidermy. An unlikely follow up, you might say. Velo-City was a strong example of the Museum’s new direction and, to our minds, prescient; Ravishing Beasts explores our past, fitting elements of our collection into a contemporary context. The exhibit features taxidermy and other items from our natural history collection that have not been on public display since the Museum moved to its current location in 1968. Expect an eclectic and dramatic round up of exotic and local species alongside taxidermy-influenced artwork by artists like Vancouver’s George Vergette.  Also expect interesting debate about the past, present, and future course of the Museum of Vancouver—and the changing nature of museum collecting in general—in the months ahead.

Interestingly, little is known about the provenance of many of the animals in our collection, only that they were donated by Vancouver residents. We’re looking to riff on that a bit, by asking locals to loan us their deer head trophies for a wall display we’re creating near the entrance of the exhibition. To participate, send a digital image and the dimensions of the piece to Wendy Nichols, curator of collections:

It’s going to get interesting around here… Many more posts to come.

Image credit: Rachel Poliquin

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on August 19, 2009 at 2:08 pm

I rode the Canada Line from the King Edward station last night and noticed these mud-brown boxes (pictured left) just outside the entrance. At first glance, they appeared to be electrical transformers. They’re actually bike lockers, 10 stalls in all. No signage. No way to access them without a key. No number to call for rental information. A bit of sleuthing reveals that C Media, a company contracted by TransLink, operates similar “lock and ride” boxes at many SkyTrain and West Coast Express stations. The lockers rent for three-month periods at a cost of $30 (plus GST and a security deposit). The lockers outside Canada Line stations won’t be operational until next week, with billing and rental agreements scheduled to start September 1. No details about this on C Media’s website yet, so it’s unclear how many lockers there are and which stations actually have them, but you can download the rental agreements and get the process going. The page is linked here.

As Velo-City draws to a close, the Museum is looking at what lies ahead. Throughout the exhibit, we’ve been considering whether we’re on the verge of becoming a true cycling city, by hosting events on topics like bicycle parking, and offering bicycle tours that explore our recent urban planning and architectural history (the tour route uses much of the city’s cycling infrastructure, including the new dedicated cycling lane on the Burrard Street Bridge). We’ve got a few more cycling events planned yet:

On September 3, we’ll be looking more closely at where Vancouver is at in its cycling revolution, by examining other transitional cycling cities and doing a little compare and contrast. Sean McKibben of the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition and Amy Walker of Momentummagazine will be joining us for the discussion. Reception with cash bar to follow. Admission is free.

On September 6, we’re hosting a double bill of two cycling documentaries. Veer looks at cycling culture in Portland, following a colourful cast of characters; You Never Bike Alone is a locally produced and shot film that examines how cyclists are changing Vancouver. The screenings are free with regular MOV admission. I’ll post more details on all events as the dates approach.

One thing I know for sure is that Vancouver won’t become a true cycling city until City Hall and the various regional transit agencies better communicate the cycling infrastructure that is available to would-be cyclists. One shouldn’t have to launch an investigation to find out what’s up with the brown boxes outside the Canada Line stations. In a perfect world, those lockers would have been up and running by the opening of the line, when crowds upwards of 100,000 people turned out to ride the trains and learn about the system. It was the perfect opportunity to introduce large numbers of Vancouverites to commuting by bicycle and rapid transit, and it was missed.

And what of the new bike and pedestrian bridge that opened quietly last Friday? Most media didn’t even pick up the story, but the bridge is a major contribution to regional cycling infrastructure and cost $10-million to build. For those who haven’t heard: the bridge is located beneath the Canada Line’s North Arm Bridge over the Fraser River, and connects the Marine Drive and Bridgeport stations. Video of the bridge is linked here. As seems to be the pattern, much of the commentary about it hasn’t been positive, but rather, a chance for cyclists and motorists to sound off on each other online, and for cyclists to lobby for another such bridge to be located more centrally. Read the comments linked to CBC’s coverage here.

In the trailer for Veer, one of the characters says, “You can’t have a revolution, if you don’t involve a lot of people. It doesn’t work that way.”


Image credit: Rosemary Poole

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on August 17, 2009 at 9:55 pm

Here’s a late post (a caption, really). Pictured left is a boarding pass for the first Canada Line train. These passes were given to VIPs who gathered at Vancouver International Airport early this morning for the first northbound departure. Something to add to the Museum’s collection, perhaps?

Image credit: Rosemary Poole

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on August 13, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Vancouver is just days away from opening its new rapid transit system, The Canada Line. It’s a big deal here, one decades in the making, and remains unpopular in some circles, a landmark achievement in others. There has been much debate about this line—where to locate it, how to build it, who should pay for it, the impact of construction on businesses along it, etc. etc. Add to that the many recent station open-houses and photo opps, and one can’t help but feel the official opening is somewhat anti-climactic.

It’s hard to pinpoint precisely where the firsts are here. The Canada Line is functionally a SkyTrain (something we’ve had since the mid-’80s), but serves a denser, more urban swath of Vancouver than either of the two SkyTrain routes, and the Vancouver portion of the line is entirely underground. Our first subway! It’s certainly the biggest construction project in the city’s—and the province’s—history, at least in dollar figures. $2.05-billion in all. And if nothing else, it comes at a time when few other cities are building transit projects of this size and scale; it’s the equivalent to a 10-lane highway and expected to remove 100,000 cars from the daily downtown commute.

Yesterday, at the Yaletown-Roundhouse station (pictured above), construction crews were busy restoring brick and concrete outside the new building; essentially righting a landscape obscured by construction fencing for nearly three years. I’d set out to review the design of the individual stations, starting with this one. I soon realized why there hasn’t been much written about them to date: they’re designed to blend seamlessly into their surroundings. Here, glass panels on four sides offer clear site lines from every angle (a safety measure, to be sure), while concrete and wood lend structure. Though different architecture firms worked on different groups of stations along the 19-kilometre route, they all look and feel pretty much the same. Dull? Maybe. But they’re also simple, streamlined, and self-explanatory. A nice premise. The real disappointment is the way-finding signage, which looks to be designed to the exact specs of other TransLink projects. The aim there, as with the stations themselves, seems to be to fit into an existing system, an existing context.

After the ribbons are cut on Monday, the question will be how that context—i.e. those streets in the immediate vicinity of the stations—will change. This question was at the heart of the debate that took place in Cambie Village, the section of Cambie Street between West Second and King Edward Avenues. Businesses in that area were particularly vocal about the negative impact the line’s cut-and-cover construction method had on their livelihoods. They sought compensation. At least one judge ruled in their favour. So, why didn’t Yaletown or Richmond Centre merchants respond similarly? Launch their own lawsuits? Because the identity and fate of those areas was decided long ago. The Yaletown station sits amongst historic brick warehouse buildings that have already survived major redevelopment; it looks like it’s been there for years, providing an obvious and needed rapid-transit link for a populous neighbourhood. Anti-climactic indeed.

Cambie Street, specifically Cambie Village, has a far different story. It grew up along very different lines, and is comprised mostly of its original low-rise, “six-pack” apartment buildings and single-storey mom-and-pop shops. Aside from a few big-box developments that have recently sprouted near Broadway and Cambie, many of the sites have never been redeveloped. That will soon change. The zoning along Cambie Village allows for multi-storey residential buildings with commercial storefronts on the main floor (picture the Olive condo development at Cambie and West 16th). When will the landowners redevelop? Which businesses will stay? Which will go? Which will come? Stay tuned.

Image credit: Rosemary Poole

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on August 6, 2009 at 6:24 pm

Along with our new name and brand has come a rethinking of our spaces. The question: how to physically translate the premise that we’re not a museum of objects, but a museum of ideas? The ‘translation’ or makeover is now well underway, kicked off by the completion of our new MOV Studio in May (pictured left), and now progressing gradually on many fronts.

It’s a long project. The end is years away.

In many ways, the process has become the plan (a Vancouver idiom, if ever there was one). We’re actively researching and drawing inspiration from our visitors, our members, and from some of the most creative spaces around the world.

We’re not the only museum in transformation. The Tate Modern in London is also in the midst of a major overhaul. Click here for details. The scale of their project is vastly different from ours, but the goal is the same:  better engage diverse audiences and offer an equally diverse range of learning tools and experiences.

One of the online features they’ve created around this project is a Mood Board, where people can upload images of inspirational spaces they’d like to see incorporated, in some way, shape, or form, into The Tate’s redesign. The 289 photos on the board so far, include cool way-finding signage from an unknown street, unusual lighting in a Tokyo restaurant, and a pile of leaves in Montpelier. It all makes for a compelling portal into urban life; some of it brilliant, some of it surreal, some of it useless, all of it really fun to click through.

Our former gift shop space is now a construction site and, come October, it will become the MOV Junior Studio. (A ‘before’ shot is pictured left.) We see this studio as a place where kids and their families will learn about Vancouver through activities like book readings, performance, and craft and history workshops—to name just a few. When it opens, it’ll feature objects from our teaching collection (like vintage toys and clothes), and the objects from our Pioneer Vancouver program. Those items will occupy about one-third of the space. The rest will be a blank canvas, shaped by our youngest visitors in the weeks and months and years to come.

Image credits: Rosemary Poole

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on August 6, 2009 at 2:14 pm

A (belated) thank you to the 100+ invited guests who attended “Spark! Ignite Your Curiosity,” a gala the Museum hosted last week to showcase items from our collection, and introduce our new vision, new website, and new public programs. Champagne and Pilsner Urquell flowed, Goby Catt and the Catt Pack played jazz, and our views of English Bay offered an incredible vantage point for the “Celebration of Light” fireworks displays that capped off the evening. We hope you enjoyed the night as much as we did.

Image credit: Philippe Antes

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on August 4, 2009 at 2:21 pm

We’ve reached the halfway point in our “Vancouverism by Bicycle” tours, which examine the recent history of urban planning and architecture downtown and around False Creek. (The tours run Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. from now til August 22. Click here for details or to register.)

Condensing decades of history into a two-hour format—including riding time between stops—has been a fascinating, challenging project. We’ve been forced to reconsider how people, be they tourists or locals, experience the city’s built form. One recurring discussion point has been the role public art plays in creating a sense of place, particularly in shiny, new neighbourhoods that have been all but wiped clean of their past, or were previously undeveloped. Two examples stand out.

The work Red Horizontal (pictured above) by Montreal-based artist Gisele Amantea is a featured stop on the tour, and was embedded in the seawall near David Lam Park in 2005. Essentially, it’s a bright red strip of porcelain enamel panels that depict 228 interiors of nearby apartments, condominiums, converted lofts, and seniors’ housing; 29 images repeat, a reference to the recurring unit sizes and layouts, and the uniformity of the spaces. Red Horizontal serves a documentary function, freezing those living rooms and kitchens in perpetuity. It also poses an important question: once stainless-steel appliances and granite countertops are no longer in fashion, what will False Creek North—and indeed, Vancouver’s many other master-planned communities—look and feel like? Will False Creek North go the route of Science World, representing a vision of the future from the past?

Just beyond the city limits, a new art installation lends context to another new neighbourhood. Last week, UniverCity, the residential neighbourhood at Simon Fraser University, unveiled Yellow Fence, a series of 15 gates fronting the townhouses of a just-completed building (one of them is pictured left). (Full disclosure: I’m related to Jonathan Tinney, their director of community development.) Here, Vancouver artist Erica Stocking references yellow wire-meshed construction fencing—something as much a part of local material culture as glass and concrete. Each gate bears a different grid pattern; a Crayola-yellow delineation of public and private space. As Stocking described in a release: “I wanted to use the material of the temporary fence as a metaphor for shifting boundaries and as a reference to the site’s built history.”

Both projects push traditional approaches to public art. They are not only integrated into their sites in compelling ways, they also challenge the very neighbourhoods of which they are a part, capturing a particular moment in their development, history, and story.

Red Horizontal image by RightAntler ; Yellow Fence image by Scott Massey, Site Photography.