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Posted by: Anna Wilkinson on May 2, 2013 at 4:48 pm

This week we're exploring the spaces where Vancouverites are making connections, collaborating, and becoming better acquainted. Ideas like the VPL's new public garden or an award for Vancouver's 'greenest' family are complicating the perception of Vancouver as an unfriendly city. Sure, there are still places that make us uncomfortable and standoffish (namely, public transit) but as you'll see, there are people in the city working on how to make these friendlier too.
 
Garden in the Sky. Chances you aren't one of the very few people who have visited the VPL's rooftop garden. But that's about to change because the original design dream team that includes architect Moshe Safdie and landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander has reassembled to work on a new public green space at the central library. In 2015, the newly renovated top floors and roof will be opened to the public, complete with a grand reading room, outdoor terraces, and new rooftop garden. Sounds like a perfect place to meet new friends to us.
 
A Family that Recycles Together...A very "Vancouver" competition put on by SPUD Vancouver and Vancouver Mom came to a close on Monday: the city has voted for its greenest family. The five finalists wowed voters with their collaborative environmental achievements ranging from energy efficient renovations in their homes to air drying clothes instead of using a dryer. Read all about them here and congratulations to the McEacherns for taking home the big prize!
 
Getting Friendly on the Bus. Buses might not be known as the friendliest places in the city but one bus driver has taken it upon himself to change that. While most people try to remain as anonymous as possible on public transit, Brian Revel sees buses as temporary "micro-communities" where people can have positive interactions. So how does he get people talking? By simply encouraging passengers to say "hi" to each other. Pretty inspirational. Check out his Facebook page here.
 
Special Shout Outs. The MOV's community partner (and friend) Vancouver Mini Maker Faire, i.e. the city's biggest show and tell, is holding their third annual faire at the PNE Forum on June 1 and 2. Come out and get to know over 100 Vancouver makers demonstrating skills such as puppetry, electronics, computer hacking, music-making, quilting, farming and virtual reality. Advance tickets here. 
 
And finally a special shout out to our own curatorial team for the new Visible City virtual exhibit and free mobile app (download it through iTunes or Google Play) that allow you to explore Vancouver's neon neighbourhoods. Check it out!
 
At the MOVeum:
 
 
[Image: Crowded Vancouver bus. Photo by Michael Kalus via Flickr]
Posted by: Amanda McCuaig on April 25, 2013 at 12:00 pm

With the Vancouver Art Gallery officially on its way out of their current location between Robson and Georgia, we've been getting asked more and more whether we might be taking that space.

Today we announce that we are committed to finding an optimal location that will complement our provocative, award-winning programs and exhibitions - in other words, we don't know yet whether we will choose to stay here or move. But we have been taking deliberate steps towards securing our position as a thriving part of the Vancouver’s cultural landscape for generations to come.

The MOV has occupied its current location in Vanier Park since 1967, and while the location is picturesque it is not without its challenges (pictured above in 1971). A study is being conducted by AldrichPears Associates (APA) to define a functional program for the Museum in an optimal scenario.

“We are constantly asked about our location,” said Nancy Noble, Museum of Vancouver’s CEO. “With this study we will finally have a definitive answer to the question ‘should we stay or should we go?’”

Through the study, the Museum is examining many options for its location, the current Vancouver Art Gallery space being only one, with potential to stay at its current location. The functional program is informed by current operations, industry best-practices, the vision for the visitor experience at the Museum and the anticipated visitation levels at the current location as well as other locations throughout Vancouver.

Isaac Marshall, Principal at APA, said, “There are so many opportunities in Vancouver right now. It is the perfect time for the MOV to prove it is ready to lead the world in redefining the role of a city museum.”
 

Posted by: Anna Wilkinson on April 24, 2013 at 6:54 am

This new series from Inside Vancouver inventorying Vancouver neighbourhoods got us thinking about what it means to live in a city with distinct, geographically and socially defined communities. But as this week's stories reveal, our neighbourhoods are also fluid, permeable, shared spaces. Read on for a look at close-quarter living in Surrey's new micro-lofts, the new neighbours being brought together at the revitalized Chinatown Night Market, and a potentially major shift to a very central neighbourhood: the VAG's possible move from Robson to Cambie. 
 
Micro Communities. Micro-suites that are being called "Canada's smallest ever condominums" are now up for sale in Surrey. The smallest units are 297 square feet and can include space-saving features such as murphy beds and built-in storage units for an extra cost. Speaking to the Province, Charan Sethi of Tien Sher developers, highlighted their shifting model for apartment living: "We have to start thinking about what the next generation wants...[They want] a pad of their own that they can call their home. They don’t entertain at home ... their dining room is actually restaurants.” Just how these tiny condos might affect the ways we interact with each other, inside and outside of them, remains to be seen.
 
Mixing it Up at the Night Market. Tannis Ling of Bao Bei restaurant and current managing director of the Chinatown Night Market has a new vision for the long-standing cultural institution. She hopes that by incorporating vintage clothing booths, Rain City Chronicle storytellers, hip hop karaoke, and other acts and vendors the summer market will attract a "wider demographic": “Chinatown is Chinese, but there’s so many different neighbourhoods in the area. There’s no reason why we should appeal to strictly a Chinese audience where there’s all those other kinds of people around.”
 
New Neighbours for the VAG? City Council is meeting with members of the public today regarding the potential move of the Vancouver Art Gallery to the corner of Cambie and Georgia, currently the site of a parking lot. There has been ongoing debate surrounding the move with critics skeptical of the gallery's ability to raise funds for the move and operation of the new building. For more information on the issue check out the complete recommendation report here. Whatever the outcome, using the site as anything other than a parking lot makes sense to us.
 
At the MOVeum:
 
 
[Image: Chinatown Night Market, 2010. Photo by claydevoute via Flickr]
Posted by: Guest Author on April 21, 2013 at 8:26 pm

By Craig Scharien 

My own sex education at school (in the mid ‘90s) was not exactly memorable, but there are a couple sections of Sex Talk in the City that remind me of that time of my life. The group of white desks with graffiti all over them certainly conjure up memories of boredom and a lack of true sexual understanding. The other is the giant black cougar on a striking red wall.

For anyone who was watching movies in the 1960s all the way to the 80’s in British Columbia it is easy to recognize the restricted cougar icon that once acted as a warning about questionable content in film. When I was a kid all it meant was that I wasn’t able to watch anything with the cougar on it. The cougar and the fact that it was forbidden meant that I spent a lot of time scouring the restricted section at Canadian Tire (they used to have movies to rent, believe it or not) looking for a movie I could get away with suggesting to my parents.

These days there are boring rating systems that include things like “18A”, but back then the cougar was a symbol of coarse language, violence, nudity and obscenity in general for movies. It was developed by the BC Film Classification Board and the BC Chief Censor, Ray MacDonald at the time. The hope was that the iconic symbol would help raise public awareness of R-rated films. The cougar plays a very effective role at Sex Talk, by reminding many of us of the way censorship has been approached in our province.

It is also a vehicle for articulating an important point – that obscenity is often in the eye of the beholder. Within the exhibition, it has allowed the Museum to present sexually explicit material and stories of censorship by allowing the visitor to opt in to that element of BC’s history. If you are curious you can take a peek through the holes in the cougar to learn about pivotal moments in the history of the production, consumption and censorship of sexually explicit materials. Like the red drawers in the bedroom section of the exhibition the decisions are left to the visitor, thus making moments of discovery just a bit more and powerful.

Posted by: Anna Wilkinson on April 17, 2013 at 6:57 am

Over at the MOV, we've been excitedly welcoming the cherry blossoms all over the city (seriously, so excited). And with the arrival of these new buds, there are a whole host of other fresh starts and new beginnings in Vancouver. This week check in with Vancouver's new proposed digital strategy, the start of greener garbage collection, and something that seems like an end, but what we hope will blossom as a new future possibility: the retirement of advocate for the homeless, Judy Graves.

Born Digital. On April 9, City Council met to discuss Vancouver's first ever digital strategy that, if adopted, would mean a huge shift in how the city processes licenses and permits as well as a significant expansion in the availability of free wi-fi. Sounds pretty good, but are there any concerns? Of course. Nikolas Badminton over at the Huffington Post blog suggests the strategy doesn't do enough: "I feel it is a safe governmental play that drags us to be where we should be right now in 2013, but with full implementation not until 2016. At that point we'll be four years behind."

Hello, Green Garbage. Starting in May, the City will be implementing a new garbage pick up system that aims to reduce materials being sent to the landfill. Food scraps will be picked up once a week and garbage only once every two weeks. As the Globe and Mail reports, "It’s part of a push to recycle all organics in Metro Vancouver by 2015, a move that is supposed to result in 70 per cent of the region’s garbage being recycled." The next step will be sorting out all the food waste storage dilemas for those of us in small apartments, but we know we're up for the challenge.
 
End of an Advocacy Era? And just as these two new systems are beginning, a vital position serving Vancouver's homeless community appears to be coming to and end. Judy Graves, the City's only full-time advocate for the homeless, will be retiring this May with no word on if she will be replaced. Here's hoping that her legacy will help make advocacy work a priority in the future. As Judy told The Tyee: "I think it's important to have an informed advocate within the system who can speak truth to power. It's very easy for government to start believing its own spin."
 
At the MOVeum:
 
 
[Image: Cherry blossoms. Photo by Geoffery Kehrig via Flickr]
Posted by: Guest Author on April 15, 2013 at 4:24 pm

By Arleigh McKerlich

Now that the days are becoming warmer and sunnier, Vancouverites are returning to a long-time favourite recreation spot: English Bay Beach.

Residents of Vancouver have been flocking to "First Beach" since the earliest days of the city. Called "Ayyulshun" (soft under feet) by the First Nations people, the name “English Bay” commemorates the meeting of Captain George Vancouver, along with Spanish captains Valdes and Galiano, in 1792. (This is also how Spanish Banks received its name.)

The beach was opened for recreation in 1893, sand was added in 1898, and by 1900 the Davie Street tram line made it accessible to residents from all over Vancouver. Residents built a pier, summer cottages, a dance hall called "the Prom", and a bathhouse. The original structures were all built out of wood, but the current concrete bathhouse was built in 1932.

As early as 1913, visitors to English Bay who had forgotten their bathing suits could rent one (10 cents for an adult, 5 cents for a child) along with towels and lockers. The wool suits were rented until the 60s at the majority of Vancouver’s beaches.

In 1939, the bathhouse  was converted into the city's first aquarium featuring Oscar the Octopus but by 1956, the aquarium facility was closed and manager Ivar Haglund moved to Seattle and started up a seafood business (Ivar’s Acres of Clams).

Today the bathhouse has new uses, including acting as a stage during the Celebration of Lights each summer and drawing record numbers of people to its sandy shore.

Posted by: Anna Wilkinson on April 8, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Our upcoming Visible City online exhibit and app has got us thinking more broadly about the relationship between the highly visible aspects of our city and the less conspicuous civic spaces and moments. From Native history, to informal bike paths, to the BC Bollywood awards, it seems that more often than not, the seen and the unseen exist in close proximity in Vancouver.
 
Shining a Light on Native History. “In the silent solitude of the primeval forest, he drove a wooden stake in the earth and commenced to measure an empty land.” That's how a Vancouver heritage plaque describes Lauchlan Alexander Hamilton as he surveyed the land that would become Vancouver. Of course, the land was not an empty wilderness and members of the First Nations community are trying to set the record straight. Another development that would make contemporary Native culture and history much more visible is this proposal for six longhouses to be built in the DTES. And on a similarly enlightening note, this recent Vancouver Sun article highlights the large First Nations collection at the MOV. 
 
On the Road. A proposal for a separated bike path linking New Westminster to South Vancouver would make cyclists more visible along Marine Way. Currently, riders seem to have created their own unofficial bike route along a ditch to avoid cycling on the busy freeway. If the New Westminster branch of HUB (formerly the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition) gets their way, a two way bike lane separated by a cement barrier would be installed in the area.
 
Bollywood/BC. This Saturday saw the Times of India Film Awards held at BC Place Stadium. For many Bollywood fans, the glitz, glamour, and spectacle surrounding the event meant that it could hardly go unnoticed, however, others were less enthusiastic. Some have been critical of the $11 million doled out by the provincial government to hold it in Vancouver, others blamed high ticket prices for lower-than-expected ticket sales. And perhaps most troubling, there seemed to be no mention of Vancouver or BC in the Indian media coverage of the awards show. 
 
Gentrification Can Be Funny. Well, at least when The Onion puts its spin on it. We thought with all the serious gentrification talk happening around town lately we'd sign off with this.
 
At the MOVeum:
 
 
[Image: Norman Tait eagle helmet. Museum of Vancouver collection, AA 2571]
Posted by: Guest Author on April 8, 2013 at 2:42 pm

By Craig Scharien

A highlight of the bedroom section of Sex Talk in the City is a striking wall of red drawers. Meant evoke thoughts of a chest of drawers in the bedroom, it holds fascinating treasures and memories that aren’t always thought of or talked about – and are often, in fact, hidden.

When designing the exhibition, the drawers were added in to pull from each visitor our own memories of digging through our parents or older siblings drawers – and how what you found may have taught you some of what you know today about sexuality.

Dig into the Sex Talk drawers and you will be rewarded with a look at unique items regarding sexuality presented in an informative light.

One of my favourites is a small book, published in 1971 titled A Guide for the Naïve Homosexual. UBC student Roedy Green self-published this pamphlet as an extension to the counselling sessions he often held at his home as way to help people come out. It contains contact information, advice on coming out, sexuality, religion, and thoughts on gay and lesbian life. It was enormously popular and had 12 printings, the last of which was 3,000 copies.

Another drawer that caught my eye features adaptable sex toys for people who have suffered spinal cord injuries. It highlights an oft forgotten fact that disabilities do not make someone asexual. Produced in a joint project by the British Columbia Institute of Technology the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries, these vibrators were designed for those with decreased sensitivity with features like easy to hold handles. These are by no means the only devices of this type, but they give great insight into work that is being done on an issue that few are talking about.

These are just two of the many red drawers in Sex Talk, and you never know what you might find. So pretend you’ve been left home alone and get in there and open some drawers!

Also, share YOUR story of what you've found around your house growing up that taught you about sexuality.

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Posted by: Anna Wilkinson on April 2, 2013 at 4:37 pm

This week we delve into stories that take us along the Adanac bike route, from the downtown core, over to the Eastside. But what do the new bike pumps, clubs on the Granville strip, and Chinatown SROs have in common? Each has a not-so-obvious (secret, if you will) story behind it, illustrating once again that Vancouver's streets are littered with multiple layers of meaning.
 
Bumpy Road to Bike Pumps? A couple weeks ago this opinion piece came out on the Province blog in response to news that the City had installed Vancouver's first two public bike pumps along the Union-Adanac bike route. The gist? Cyclists, not taxpayers, should be paying for the pumps themselves. Unsurprisingly, there's been a bit of backlash. Charlie Smith makes an informed, rational argument for the importance of these pumps in the Georgia Straight. He also highlights a fact that isn't exactly a secret (but is perhaps taken for granted): amenities for private automobile users are also heavily subsidized by taxpayers.
 
Granville, Stripped Down. In her recent piece for Vancouver Magazine, Frances Bula explores the current culture and economics of partying on Granville Street. In the process she also lays bare the fascinating historical shifts that lead to a five-block strip becoming the densest drinking destination in the city. She explains how "In May 1997, city councillors changed the official plan for downtown to create a Theatre Row Entertainment District. The policy, considered revolutionary then but prim by modern lights, said that up to 1,000 lounge, cabaret, and pub seats would be allowed in the blocks from Georgia to Nelson." Thus leading to the Granville we know today. But has the current configuration harmed other businesses on the strip? Check out Bula's article for a variety of perspectives on the topic.
 
Secret Lives of Chinatown Seniors. Finally, over at The Tyee Jackie Wong begins a series of articles on a group you most likely don't know much about: Chinese seniors living in low-income housing. She explains, "While much is made about the seemingly flamboyant wealth of some Chinese immigrants to Canada, those who live at the May Wah [hotel] and other privately owned SROs in the old Chinatown area share a very different experience." It's a complex and humane exploration of a marginalized community's struggle for resources. And for more coverage on the subject check out the current issue of Megaphone.
 
At the MOVeum: 

April 26 - Brothels, Strolls, & Stilettos: Histories of Sex Work in Vancouver
April 27 - Strolling the stroll: A Tour of Sex Work History in the West End
May 2 - Special Curator Talk & Tour: Designing Sex w/ Propellor Design

[Image: Nighttime on Granville Street. Photo by Danielle Bauer via Flickr

Posted by: Anna Wilkinson on March 27, 2013 at 12:22 pm
 
This week we explore recent debates around three points of contention in the city, namely, unoccupied condos, Chinese language signage in Richmond, and anti-gentrification activism. In all three cases, confusion and misunderstandings abound, making any single reading impossible and revealing just how complex the issues of affordable housing, intercultural communication, and shifting socio-economic demographics really are.
 
Vacancies for Sale. The murky count on apartments purchased and left vacant by overseas investors (as well as Canadian residents) may have just become a little clearer. A recent Globe and Mail piece reports the findings of adjunct UBC planning professor Andrew Yan which suggest that "nearly a quarter of condos in Vancouver are empty or occupied by non-residents in some dense areas of downtown." The argument goes that these vacant apartments drive up market prices and skew the perception of density in certain neighbourhoods. But the vaguely racist undertones of the discourse also mean that the issue is more complicated than simple numbers. (Although perhaps not according to Gary Mason. For an unequivocally pro-free-market perspective on the situation, see his response piece in the Globe and Mail).
 
Reading the Signs. A change to Richmond signage bylaw that would have seen English mandatory on all store signs was struck down by city council recently. The issue was brought forward by two women petitioning the Chinese-only signs they saw in the city. Kerry Starchuk told The Province: “This is not cultural harmony because I have no idea what these signs, advertising and the real estate papers are saying." On the other hand, members of city council felt that the city should not be responsible for controlling sign language and that owners should be free to market to the customers they are looking to attract.
 
Living, Working, and Protesting in the DTES. As most of you have probably heard by now, anarchist groups have been protesting gentrifying forces in the Downtown Eastside in what some have coined a "ghetto revolt." In the midst of the protests, some restaurants are engaging with local residents in a socially and financially supportive way. This fantastic piece from the The Thunderbird explores the complex relationship between business owners and DTES employees, as they each struggle "to succeed in their own way."
 
At the MOVeum:
 
 
[Image: Multi-lingual signage in Richmond. Photo courtesy of RickChung.com via Flickr]

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