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MOVments: Cheering, Shouting, and Squawking

MOVments: current events in Vancouver by the Museum of Vancouver

Herons in Stanley ParkThis weekend there were plenty of reasons for Vancouverites to get together and make some noise. Read on for some of the week's happenings that had people cheering, jeering, and everything in between.

Denouncing Sexual Violence. This Saturday, hundreds of people came out for Vancouver's second annual SlutWalk, protesting the culture of victim-blaming that surrounds rape and sexual assault. The Georgia Straight explains that the movement stems from comments made last year by a Toronto police officer who suggested that women could stop dressing like "sluts" in order to avoid dangerous situations. For more photos from the event check out The Province's coverage.

Mixed Emotions on Canada Day. Whether your Canada Day involved the downtown parade and fireworks or a sampling of the food cart delicacies and music at the Waldorf Hotel, there were enough festivities to satisfy almost everyone this Sunday. However, anti-war activists protesting the military display downtown were less than exuberant. And World Cup fans rooting for Italy didn't have much to cheer about as their team lost out to Spain on Sunday. Commercial Drive, known as Vancouver's Little Italy, had been buzzing with excitement (and rowdiness) leading up to the game.

Shout Out for West Coast Comedy. The Canadian Comedy Awards are coming up and Vancouver's own Sunday Service is up for a number of awards including "Best Improv Troupe" and "Best Web Clip." That's quite a feat given that the award show is known for focusing more on Toronto-based comedians than "far-flung" West Coast and Maritime acts. Good luck to the Vancouver-based nominees this year!

Squawking in Stanley Park. And lastly, the good folks at Vancouver is Awesome recently clued us into the existence of a charmingly loud congregation of herons living in Stanley Park. Follow the link for more on the heronry (including what kinds of sounds the baby birds make and how you can adopt a nest).

At the MOVeum:
August 18 - MEMBERS ONLY Art Deco Chic: Talk & Tour with Ivan Sayers

[Image: Great blue heron in Stanley Park. Photo by Jim Simandl]

Museum Monday: Art Deco on the Burrard Bridge

It’s Museum Monday!  This week we’re celebrating the historic art deco landmark which connects Kitsilano (and the MOV) to the heart of Vancouver’s downtown: the Burrard Street Bridge.

The Burrard Bridge opened ‘with a snip of golden scissors’ on Canada Day, July 1, 1932. The MOV has several items which capture this opening day, including theBurrard Bridge Rose Bowl presented to assistant City Engineer William Brand Young in 1932. No pictures are posted yet, but you can just imagine its shining splendor: Victorian, silver plate, decorated with an ornate fruit and vine border and finely engraved with “Souvenir of the Opening of the Burrard Bridge July 1st 1932”.

I love this photo from the Vancouver Archives, which seems to capture the excitement of the day – a gathering throng out to test the new bridge and parade their Sunday best. Gentlemen in suits, caps, and fedoras; Ladies in frocks and cloche hats; Couples arm in arm; A lad on his bike…perhaps one of the first cyclist to cross?
 
Head engineer John R. Grant and Architect George Lister Thornton Sharp designed the bridge so that boats could get through safely while cars passed overhead. Preserving an unobstructed view was another key concern. According to the Burrard Bridge Heritage Study (Donald Luxton, 2001), the handrails were structured so that vehicles driving between 40 and 64 kilometers an hour could still enjoy the beautiful bay thanks to a “stroboscopic” visual effect.

The decorative bridge towers have inspired speculation and urban myth over the years. Is there a hidden gallery or office space up there in the middle of the bridge? What about the mysterious spaces arching in between the towers and those small windows peering onto the traffic below? It’s tempting to imagine…but apparently nothing much is going on there. In fact, it’s an elegant way to conceal some necessary steel support structures.

Photo by cmh2315fl on Flickr

Those special art deco details on the surface do have a story to tell. The boats jutting out at each side are crowned with the busts of Captain George Vancouver and Sir Harry Burrard. The large pylons at each entrance emulate a flaming torch. Bridge engineer John Grant designed these torches as a tribute to Canadian prisoners of war (from World War I), imagining them huddled around open fires in their prison camps.

Thanks to an avid Vancouver collector (Doreen Margaret “Peggy” Imredy), MOV hosts a fascinating assortment of over 3,500 pieces relating to Stanley Park. This extensive collection includes post card views of the Burrard Bridge from 1932, 1978, and 1999. By comparing these images, you can see how our natural and urban landscapes have changed. It’s also striking to see how camera technology and visual taste trends have changed. Today you can catch an almost live view of bridge and sea (updated every 5 minutes) on the Katcam.

Follow the Bright Burrard Banners to MOV! If you’re a Kits commuter, you’ll notice new MOV street banners decorating your route from the Burrard Bridge south to Broadway. Why not take a refreshing pause and follow that trail to the MOV? We’re in the distinctive ‘building that looks like a spaceship / Haida hat’ [find it in the images to the right] with the famous crab fountain out front.

We’re also right in the midst of beautiful Vanier Park, so you can make a day of it… Fly a kite, plan a picnic or just enjoy the city views and sea breeze. Then pop into MOV for a fun event or peruse our Art Deco Chic exhibition and see if you can appreciate the stunning links between art deco fashion and architecture.
 

MOVments: communities in action

Voting. After an extremely low turnout in 2008, the City of Vancouver is trying to make it easier for people to vote in municipal elections with social media apps, more advanced polling days, and translating information and ballot questions into Punjabi and Chinese. An earlier request by the city to test online voting during this election was turned down by the provincial government.

OccupyVancouver. The handling of the camp at the Vancouver Art Gallery has emerged as a major election issue and as the protestors become more entrenched, so too does the pressure to move them. City staff have began to talk to the people at the camp about ending the occupation, but have yet to figure out the course of action with the smallest amount of conflict.

Legal experts at UBC opine that since the Art Gallery is on provincial land, it exists in a complicated grey area where city bylaws do not apply, making it difficult for anyone to form a legal case for removing the camp.

Others complain politicians should instead focus on addressing the conditions that led to the protest in the first place.

Missing women. Families of the missing women have testified to years of frustration, as police repeatedly ignored missing persons reports and chose not to investigate or press charges after receiving tips as early as 1997. The deadline for the inquiry has been extended by six months, due to the volume of evidence and testimony, and how long the proceedings took to begin.

Liquor laws. Both the Rio and District 319 have come up against the province's outdated liquor laws that prohibit them from screening films after acquiring their liquor licenses.

Videomatica. Finally some good news about one of Vancouver's best video rental stores: after slumping business and rising rents forced Videomatica to shut down their West 4th store, they've announced that they will continue DVD sales out of the back of Zulu Records.

Community stories. A creative writing workshop at Onsite enables people in the Downtown Eastside to tell their own stories, while Hope in Shadows aims to do the same thing with photography.

In South Hill, residents have been using digital filmmaking to tell their stories and connect with their neighbours.

How a group of concerned community members saved the saved the hollow tree in Stanley Park.

Image: Karen Kuo

MOVments: Keeping Insite, creating Stanley Park and too much of a good thing

Insite. Hastings Street erupted into a clebration and pancake breakfast as people gathered to hear the Supreme Court of Canada reject the federal government's appeal to close Insite. This is a landmark decision  - not only does it allow the facility to remain open but it signals a change in attitudes toward addicts and positions healthcare as a higher priority than law and order. The unanimous decision by the court opens up possibility of safe injection sites across the country. Kind of fitting that this happened in Vancouver, the birthplace of Canada's first drug laws.

Stanley Park. While it's now the uncontroversial crown jewel of our city, Stanley Park got off to a rocky start, as the land was not only expropriated from First Nations people but also others who made their homes on the land. The removal of these people took nearly 40 years.

Growing pains. You can never have too much of a good thing. Or can you? In some cities there is a glut of farmer's markets and not enough consumer demand, forcing them to compete with each other for customers. In Vancouver the tight control over the creation of new markets seems to ensure that this will not be the case but in the suburbs it's a different story.

Mural tour. The City of Vancouver has created a cool interactive map and audio tour of murals in the downtown core and East Van.

Places that matter. John Atkin shares more of his findings while researching materials for the Heritage Foundation's Places that Matter project. This week: the Louvre Hotel and Saloon.

Image via Bruce...

MOVments

Picnurbia is a pop-up installation of picnic benches and artificial turf at Robson Square as part of VIVA Vancouver. Perhaps installations like this can help us re-evaluate the way we think about public space.

Homelessness. The city's new housing plan reveals that five neighbourhoods outside of the Downtown Eastside will be targeted for the construction of homeless shelters and supportive housing.

Renting. The Tyee's Reporting Fellowships are turning out some good stories: this week an in depth series about renovictions and affordable rental housing in Vancouver. Catch them all here.

Humanitarian architecture. Two Vancouver-based architects are recycling the fabric from the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre's old sail roof into projects for Architecture for Humanity.

Community awards. The City of Surrey has launched the City Awards Program, a variety of awards to recognize people for community spirit, clean energy, urban design and beautification.

Cycling infrastructure. Another update on the Coal Harbour seawall connection: it still sucks for cyclists. A little further down the seawall, installing consistent signage and adequate infrastructure for cyclists at Stanley Park doesn't seem to be a high priority either.

Just who are bike thieves anyway? The Dependent talks to bike thieves and learns about the tools of the trade.

Earthquake preparedness. An engineering report has found that both City Hall and it's data are vulnerable in the event of a major earthquake.

Data mapping. The Vancouver Sun has created a series of interactive maps with data from the 2006 census.

The road not taken. Forty years ago Vancouver and Hamilton shared many similarities. Nicholas Kevlahan takes a detailed look at how they diverged.

Image: Krista Jahnke for Loose Affiliates

Painful Crushes Vancouver: Heartbreak City

New MOV Blog series: Painful Crushes Vancouver
Guest MOV series by Anna Wilkinson

Photo by Paul Clarke
photo by Paul Clarke

As someone who’s had a lot of painful crushes in my life—so many that I curated an art show and created a blog around the idea—I’m pretty familiar with pining after someone who seems just out of reach.

You’ve probably felt it at least once. There’s the good: a fantastic conversation or a shared glance from across the room. And the not-so-good: awkward side hugs, night sweats, not knowing whether they like you “that way”.

Weirdly, I’m starting to think I have a painful crush on Vancouver. Like so many emotionally distant relationships, the city keeps giving me the hot and cold treatment: I endure two months of non-stop rain, then suddenly I'm riding my bike through canopies of pink cherry blossoms. I watch as young ruffians light cars on fire and steal Pringles (seriously guys, worst looting ever), and then see a bunch of lovelies clean up the mess and write sweet love notes to the city. I just can’t seem to quit you, Vancouver.

But then again maybe it’s not so surprising that I have such a confusing relationship with Vancouver. I mean, it is consistently ranked one of the most livable cities in the world and one of the saddest cities in Canada.

Maybe part of the problem is that some of us come here with extremely high expectations. We’ve heard rumours about how good-looking Vancouver is. We see people falling head over heels for it. We hear that the legendary Leonard Nimoy loves it so much he might live here (I want to believe that he watches over us from his West End penthouse. Please don't take that away from me). So how can we help but feel a little heartbroken when we never quite see the Vancouver of our dreams?

Over the summer I’ll be exploring what makes this city so attractive and heartbreaking and asking Vancouver “experts” (that includes you!) about how to get over a painful crush on our Heartbreak City.

Find @Museumofvan on Twitter and share some of your #PainfulCrushes in our city.

Painful Crushes Vancouver, Part One:  Heartbreak City

Holly Flauto Salmon on Granville Street during the 2010 Olympics

Holly Flauto Salmon on Granville Street during the 2010 Olympics

For the first of this series, I had a chance to sit down with Holly Flauto Salmon, one half of the writing duo behind Holly and Holly, a blog dedicated to “un-hating Vancouver one grey, cloudy, drizzling, dizzy day at a time.”   

If you’ve read their recent posts you’ll know that since undertaking this mission, one of the Hollys has actually started to like it here. Ms. Salmon is that Holly and she opened up about finding an intellectual community, unexpected Google searches, and how she ended up falling for Vancouver on her own terms.

How did you get the idea for the blog?

The other Holly and I met because our sons were in the same class. We were both living out at UBC and felt pretty isolated. We just kept saying, “But we should like it.”

And so we started the blog, but decided, “We can’t say we hate this place. It’s so negative.” So we decided to “un-hate” it. That was my goal. I’d lived in a lot of cities before and I’d always found a niche but for some reason it was harder in Vancouver.

From reading your Dear Johncouver post, there’s an image of the city as really attractive but sort of vapid. What were your expectations before you came here?

Well, my spouse got a job here when were living in New Haven and neither one of us had been here before. My friend said, “You’re moving to Vancouver? You’re going to love it!” This was coming from someone who had been here on a trip once and whose favourite book was Stanley Park.

I think it’s definitely seen as being spectacularly beautiful, very international, and culturally diverse.

What are things that come up most often in your blog about Vancouver’s heartbreaking qualities?

It seems to be that sense of isolation, the aloneness. Sometimes commenters on the blog insist that people here are mean but I don’t know if that’s exactly true. For example, it was my second year here, and I would talk to other people who had been here longer than I had, and they would say, “Oh yeah, I didn’t like it when I first got here either. Don’t worry about it.” But then they wouldn’t invite me places. I’d say, “I feel really alone.” And they’d be like, “Oh yeah, I felt that way too.” And then, “Okay bye! Good luck!”

How exactly did you start un-hating Vancouver?

I think finding an intellectual community was definitely part of it. I took a writing class with Lee Henderson at UBC last spring and we became friends. And then one of my stories was published in an online literary journal and I became friends with the editor there, who started introducing Holly and me to people. I call him “Mr. Vancouver.” 

I love the writers I’ve since met and how they all support each other in a way that I haven’t seen another group of artists do. They’re all very proud to be here and really identify as “Vancouver writers.”

Through your blog it seems like you’re building a community of “jilted lovers.” Has it been cathartic?

That’s a great analogy. It’s like a group of people who have been dumped by the same bachelor. You ask yourself, “Why didn’t this work?” And when you meet other people who’ve had the same experience, you can say, “It’s not me! He’s just a jerk.”

If you looked in the search results for our blog, you’d find “I hate Vancouver + want to die.” Now, at what point does a person sit down at their computer and want to Google that? What exactly are you looking for? Holly and I gain some satisfaction in knowing we might have made a difference for some of these people, that they don’t feel so alone.

For now, it seems like at least one Holly has gotten to first base with Vancouver. Some of us, of course, are still just waiting for the city to send us another cryptic text. Stay tuned for the second installment of “Heartbreak City.”

Anna Wilkinson is a museologist and oral historian living in East Vancouver. Her Chestbursters blog is a collection of endearingly awkward, cringe-inducing, and heartbreaking crush stories.

MOVments

Disappearing lake. The park board is exploring options to preserve Beaver Lake. The lake has been steadily shrinking due to nearby construction projects, sediments and invasive pant species. Now they’re looking for public input about the project.

Underground chickens. Six months after legalizing chickens in Vancouver, only 18 people have registered their birds, and many more people are choosing not to register.

Social housing. Vancouver needs more affordable housing, but where to put it? The City may be backing off from it’s policy of requiring developers to dedicate 20% of new units in their developments to social housing. The property in question is the northeast section of False Creek. The developer, Concord Pacific has proposed that instead of building social housing there, it would give the City two properties in the Downtown Eastside.

Meanwhile activists are currently protesting a proposal to allow the construction of 7 new condo towers in the Downtown Eastside, something they claim will have a detrimental impact on rents and the affordability of housing.

Death at their doorsteps. Also controversial, plans to locate a hospice at UBC hit a snag as residents complained, citing their cultural values. Their concerns have been condemned by some as nimbyism, while others urge more tolerance.

Bike fashion. The Vancouver Observer looks at the colourful world of bike fashion in Vancouver.

Image source: feffef, via flickr.

Books Every Vancouverite Should Read: Stanley Park

When it was first published in 2001, Timothy Taylor’s Stanley Park reached bestseller lists and received national acclaim. But its nuances are lost on anyone who hasn’t lived in Vancouver; reading it is much like watching a movie filmed here. You strain to place buildings, intersections, and characters based on actual people. (Some names are barely disguised. There’s reference made to photographer “Malcolm Perry” and architect “Arthur Erikson”). The book is as much a postcard as it is a compelling assessment of the city’s best and worst qualities. Taylor reminds us that Stanley Park may be the city’s green heart, but it’s also full of shadows.

The story follows chef Jeremy Papier, a French-trained chef who opens a restaurant in Crosstown (how very 2001) with a local, simple menu he describes as “high-end urban rubber-boot food.” Meanwhile, his anthropologist father has taken to camping in Stanley Park to connect with the city’s homeless, and to solve a decades-old murder case. Both characters are desperately searching for authenticity, approaching it from very different angles, by different means, finally coming together at the end.

Several MOV staffers recommended Stanley Park for this series. Executive Assistant Beverly Faryna explains: “Jeremy takes you on a walking tour of Vancouver every time he ventures out the door. From the kitchen of his restaurant, The Monkey’s Paw, he ventures across ‘the density of downtown,’ and on into the trails of Stanley Park. The fact that I live next door to Stanley Park Manor, the place Jeremy calls home in the West End, adds to its appeal.”

Stanley Park is published by Alfred A. Knopf Canada, a division of Random House of Canada.

Noticed: Flickr as a Cataloguing Tool

 

We’re always looking for images of Vancouver—new, old, beautiful, strange, revelatory. Browsing photostreams on Flickr—a site invented locally, no less—has become a pastime at the Museum.

Vancouverites, it would seem, spend an inordinate amount of time photographing their surrounds. Two reasons, the first one obvious: we’re a photogenic city. Two: we’re a young city, and in so many ways still settling in. Some of our most populous neighbourhoods are only a handful of years old; others have been redeveloped many, many times over, and have no particular aesthetic. A typical Vancouver city block might include an arts-and-crafts-style cottage, a mid-century bungalow, and an 1980s-era, seashell-pink, stucco-clad two-storey. On so many occasions, you pass a new building on your daily commute and can’t recall what was there prior. Local photography has become a way to keep track; a powerful cataloguing tool, driven by photographers, both amateur and professional, who actively share their work online.

Among this diverse group is Kenny Louie. We discovered his photostream recently and have been scrolling through it—all 850 images and counting—ever since. Many of his images have made their way onto this website. Louie, 31, is a software developer who grew up in Renfrew-Collingwood, and now lives in Burnaby. He carries a digital SLR camera with him most of the time, and has made a practice of taking at least one photograph a day as part of his “365” project. Another informal project has him uploading shots of North and Southeast False Creek every Friday. He says it’s just a “silly thing”—he’s in that area a lot because his wife works at Science World—but the sheer size of his portfolio indicates it’s anything but. He’s amassed over 1,000 images of that area alone, and in the process, produced a thorough chronicle of the contentious Olympic Village construction. Other photo sets capture the Downtown Eastside, Granville Island, and Yaletown, among many other locations. Taken together, it’s a moving portrait of the city today.

Herewith, a sampling of Louie’s online portfolio, with his comments:

 


Museum of Vancouver: “This was taken on one of my evening photowalks, when I was waiting for my wife. I had been shooting between the Burrard and Granville Street Bridges and was making my way back when I noticed some other large group photographing the Museum and thought, yeah, the light is pretty good.”

 


The Ovaltine Café: “My dad used to work here. One of his friends took it over, and my dad was semi-retired at the time, so he went to help out on the weekends and a few weekdays. It’s not as bad as you might think it is, because it’s in such close proximity to the police station.”

 


Stanley Park: “So many of my shots emphasize cityscape. I took this shot of Stanley Park to remind myself of the natural beauty we sometimes take for granted in this city.”

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