April 2010

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on April 29, 2010 at 12:13 pm


A round up of news stories we followed this week, plus other events and cultural happenings worth a notice.

You see arugula, I see an eyesore? As City Council pushes for a green, sustainable Vancouver (allowing backyard chickens, introducing new bike lanes, building a demonstration garden on City Hall property, etc.), awkward snags in the day-to-day functioning of city emerge. Two neighbours in East Van are going head-to-head over a vegetable garden. Seems the tenants at 470 E. 56th Ave. have turned the front and back yards of the property over to vegetables, growing everything from kale to raspberries to herbs. Every inch is maximized for growing—even the dandelions are used for tea. (An image of the yard from last summer is pictured left.) They write a blog about their “yarden” project, too, and have even offered workshops to would-be farmers. Their neighbour says their efforts are impacting the value of his property and that weeds are travelling into his yard. The City is now involved, expressing their support but also requiring clean up of beds planted on the city land the tenants have taken over between the sidewalk and the street, among other things. Question is: Would the neighbours complain, and thus the city be involved, if the house were located near Commercial Drive where such philosophies are more commonplace? Or are the tenants pushing things too far, too fast, politicizing the issue instead of just trying to get along? Would love feedback on all this. See the article in today’sGlobe and Mail for additional background.

First United embraces a new mission. This week, First United Church launched a campaign to raise $31-million to “redevelop the church into a multi-service facility that will provide everything from health care to housing” for residents of the Downtown Eastside. Though the church has been a beacon for the poor and marginalized since its establishment in 1885 (archival photos from the 1930s show people lined up around the building for food), it has adapted in recent years to meet a growing demand for safe shelter. In 2007, they stopped offering formal Sunday services because of poor attendance; in 2008, they became one of the City’s emergency homeless shelters, under the HEAT initiative. Some 250 to 300 people sleep there each night. With this week’s announcement, they’ll now formally transition from a place of worship to a place of sanctuary, a move a spokesperson for the church says resulted from questioning what it means to be a church in the 21st century. (Globe and Mail)

So long, white dome. On May 3, at 10 a.m., the distinctive air-supported roof at B.C. Place will deflate for good, marking a major change to the city’s skyline. The 27-year-old roof is being replaced with a retractable version that’s scheduled for completion next year. Click the link for a slideshow of artist renderings. (BC Place)

Art, popular culture, and Kurt Cobain. On May 13, the Seattle Art Museum will open an exhibition devoted to Kurt Cobain. The group show sees different media to interpret the work, life, and continued influence of the city’s most famous musician. On till September 6. Click the link for a slideshow of works from the show. Wonder what Kurt would think. (Seattle Art Museum)

And a note on what we’re working on. Sorry to be off the blog this week. We’re gearing up for the opening of our latest exhibition, Fox, Fluevog & Friends(!), and preparing for the launch of our summer program schedule and related online content. Some of the programs will relate to the Fluevog exhibition, others won’t. Lively mix assured.

We’ve also been busy mining the content from our history galleries for a new interpretive guide/mini-catalogue. It’s been written and designed as a visitor’s guide to those galleries, and part of an ongoing effort to link the stories from the city’s—and the Museum’s past—into our new vision. I’ll write more about it once it’s available at our visitor services desk. Happy weekend.

Image credit: The Farmhouse Blog

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on April 22, 2010 at 11:35 am


A weekly round up of the news and cultural happenings we followed this week.

Vancouver gets animated: Pixar officially opened offices in Gastown this week. Always so much media coverage (hype?) around these Vancouver 2.0/creative class/Hollywood North stories, and more to come: “no fewer than three American studios are opening up shops in Vancouver: Pixar, Digital Domain and Sony Pictures Imageworks, which plans to formally announce its Vancouver studio next month.” (Globe and Mail)

Lights out for Celebration of Light? We could post a link to last year’s story on this, or the 2008 version, and so on… Every year the incredibly popular fireworks festival is on the verge of cancellation. Who’ll be the white-knight sponsor this year? (Globe and Mail)

Beaches and parks go smoke-free: On Monday night, the Parks Board voted in favour of banning smoking in local parks and beaches. “No fines or penalties were passed in the bylaw but the regulation could be amended in the future if there’s not sufficient voluntary compliance.” Sign we’re living in a nanny state or a progressive one? And could a ban on carcinogen-spewing charcoal barbecues be next? Or is this really about legislating manners? (CBC)

Pop art continues to provoke: A blockbuster exhibition of works by the world’s foremost pop artists opens at Ottawa’s National Gallery in June, and it’s already stirring controversy for its, well, intentionally controversial content. Pop Life: Art in a Material World is travelling from the Tate Modern in London, and features some 250 paintings, drawings, sculptures, videos, etc., produced over the past three decades by artists like Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, and Damien Hirst. The gallery has received the edited version of the show from Tate curators, presumably to avoid some of the issues experienced during the show’s run last year, and some galleries will be off limits to kids under 18 unless they’re accompanied by a parent. Great discussion on all this on CBC Radio’s Q this morning, more coverage from the show’s London run from the Guardian newspaper here, and details on the exhibition itself via on the National Gallery’s website here. Fascinating.

History on foot: The May schedule for Jane’s Walks is now up on the Think City website. Great lineup. For the uninitiated, the walks are inspired by the late Jane Jacobs—Toronto’s urban-planning heroine and author of the seminal book Death and Life of Great American Cities—and delivered by civic-minded volunteers for free. (We’re into the tour of andesite-stone buildings, a topic covered in the terrific book Vancouver Matters; see my blog post on it from September.) (Jane’s Walk)

Image credit: The Globe and Mail

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on April 20, 2010 at 10:55 am




As our Twitter followers will have noticed, we’ve started flagging stories from here and elsewhere about the surging popularity of eating food grown locally. Credit Vancouver writers Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon for giving the local movement traction with their popular 100-Mile Diet blog, book, and television series, and the many Vancouver restaurants who champion regional suppliers (far too many places to list but Raincity Grill and C restaurant come to mind).

In August, we open a feature exhibition that will explore the homegrown scene through a collection of new photographic works. We’ll supplement the show with a series of public programs designed to educate and inspire. Stay tuned. In the meantime, we’ll continue to post about news and ideas relating to all this—there’s certainly no shortage of them.

First published in 2008, Edible Estates spotlighted the return of the kitchen garden. The just-published—and expanded—second edition looks at eight “regional prototype gardens” planted by author Fritz Haeg around the U.S. There are also essays by leading edible-landscape thinkers such as landscape architect like Rosalind Creasy, and Michael Pollan, the unofficial voice of the sustainable-food movement. The book is beautifully designed, too; lots to inspire.

Last week, I tweeted about a great slideshow on Instructurist that looks at the emergence of urban farms in inner-city neighbourhoods in parts of the U.S. It’s worth mentioning again; the range of interpretations is fascinating.

Vancouver’s version of an urban farm is taking shape on Hastings Street next to the Astoria Hotel. Called SOLEfood, it’s a project from United We Can that employs neighbourhood residents. This spring, they’ll harvest their first crop. Visit their blog for more information and ways you can get involved. Right now, they’re looking for garden tool donations.

Lots more ahead on this topic. Send us your own ideas and observations, too.

Image credit: Art Book

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on April 15, 2010 at 11:21 am


A weekly round up of the news and cultural happenings we’re following. Off we go:

Remember the Bixi bike trial the city hosted one weekend last summer? (Bixi being the public bike-share program that’s been successfully implemented in Ottawa and Montreal, and modeled after similar programs in Paris and Copenhagen.) Where’s that at? Looks like Dublin’s the latest city to embrace the idea and it’s described in this article as a “spectacular triumph.” Even better: They’ve launched a bike-to-work tax incentive program where employes can buy bikes and sell them to workers tax-free, “reducing the price by about 40%.” (Global Post)

City Hall’s new rental scheme going over like a lead balloon: There were stories in the local press this week about growing (and unexpected) opposition to city council’s Short-Term Incentives for Rental Housing program. In a nutshell: The plan gives developers incentives to build rental units instead of condos. Seems the first projects announced under the scheme aren’t being well-received by some West End residents because, among other reasons, the new units will rent for market rates. Gordon Price, the long-time voice of the West End and director of the SFU City Program, offers a nice summary of the issues on his blog—click the link. (Price Tags)

And speaking of the SFU City Program… On April 28, they’ll host a discussion entitled, “Post-Game Analysis: How Vancouver, Richmond and Whistler planned for the Olympics.” Six panelists, including Brent Toderian, Vancouver’s director of planning and Whistler’s Mayor Ken Melamed, will discuss how they pulled off the Games, and lessons learned. (SFU City Program)

“Quick Homes,” smart designs: Following on the success of the city’s Housing-First strategy, the local chapter of Architecture for Humanity is hosting a design super-challenge tomorrow night to “generate a series of viable [housing] concepts that are ready for prototyping and implementation.” It’s too late to register for that session, unfortunately, but you can follow the event on Facebook and/or attend the live-jury session this Saturday. Click the link for details. (Architecture for Humanity)

SHOES! Fox, Fluevog & Friends: The story behind the shoes opens in mere weeks and we’ve got shoes on our mind. Next Wednesday, the storied Army & Navy store on Hastings hosts their legendary, crazy-popular shoe sale. It’s one of those events every Vancouverite should attend at least once. Doors open at 8 a.m. (Army & Navy)

As it happens, the Museum of London is also hosting a program devoted to shoes. Tomorrow, there’s a object-handling session featuring items from their leatherworking collection. Among them: handmade leather shoes excavated from the banks of the River Thames. Some things are just made to last. (Museum of London)

And… special thanks to everyone who attended, sponsored, or just perused last Friday night’s DIY@MOV2. Over 300 people attended, and the feedback was stellar. Thanks for making it such a fun and lively night. Happy weekend.

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on April 13, 2010 at 11:15 am


Yesterday, I posted about the work of John Allison, a fine-art photographer who has taken thousands of images of the city in an effort to track its ongoing transformation (read it here). In this interview, he describes why he does it, the buildings he wishes were still standing—and the one that may not be long for this world.

How much time would you say you spend on photographing Vancouver? I’m out and about pretty much every weekend. And I have my compact camera with me all the time.

Why do you do it?
I began to see the city changing in 2004-2005. Saw lots of those Development Application signs around and then places would soon be gone. So, I started to think it was really worthwhile, trying to document aspects of the city that were beginning to disappear—old houses, buildings, corner stores, that kind of thing. Things really came to a head in 2006 and 2007; there were so many buildings being demolished it was hard to keep track. During that time you could pass by almost any part of the city and something was being torn down.

What does your collection look like?
I have thousands of digital images to keep track of. In the last five years or so I’ve been shooting around 7,000 to 8,000 images a year. So, I have quite a collection of backup DVDs and a few hard drives! I’ve made some prints but have chosen to print mostly 4×6-inch proofs just to have a hard copy of images I’m happy with. I’ve decided that right now it’s important to just get images captured, as once something in the city disappears it’s gone forever. I can always look after the printing later!

What is your take on Vancouver’s development story? When an old building comes down is it a tragedy or progress? Both? 
Back in 2006-2007, there was a big rush on development so the city lost a lot of great old buildings. The old Colliers building at Richards and Georgia comes to mind. Recently, there have been some great developments and renovations of some very old buildings. The Ralph Block across from the Woodward’s development on Hastings Street is just finished. I never thought I’d see that building restored so someone should get an award for that one! But of course you have to be realistic too, some buildings are well past their prime and are just too costly to renovate.

Thinking about the “Just a Memory Now” set in particular, which buildings do you wish had been saved?
Places like Molly’s Coffee Shop and some of the old heritage houses on Richards Street. Also, a lot of little corner stores have disappeared, like Henry’s on Hastings Street. There was also a strip of houses on Guelph Street near East 12th that were all torn down to build condos. That could almost be Vancouver’s credo: “If it’s old, tear it down and build condos!”

What are your favourite Vancouver buildings, demolished or otherwise?
That’s a tough one. I’m a fan of the little, old, abandoned building that not too many people take notice of. An example of this would be something like the Blue Eagle Cafe. One of my faves, even though it’s almost falling down, is the Opsal Steel building. It’s really a shame what has happened to it.

A slideshow of Allison’s work is now on the Multimedia section of our website here.

Image credit: John Allison

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on April 12, 2010 at 8:26 pm


We MOV staffers are constantly amazed and inspired by the archival-like documentation of Vancouver happening online; social media has radically altered the landscape. It’s a frenetic, messy, diverse, ongoing collection, and, perhaps unexpectedly, a high-tech throwback to the city’s original methods of record-keeping, when keen locals like Major James Skitt Matthews (later the city’s volunteer archivist) amassed hard copies of photographs, artifacts, news clippings, and ephemera as a hobby.

I recently came across the extraordinary work of John Allison, a fine-art photographer who’s worked in the photographic business for decades, first as a darkroom technician—even printing Jeff Wall’s Ilfochromes for “three or four years,” he estimates—and now in the digital realm, specializing in large-format printing.

Allison arrived in Vancouver in 1988, but says he only really became fascinated with the city’s history in the last five years. Since then, he’s posted some 4,600 photographs of the city on Flickr. He’s established image sets like Then and Now which sees images from the City of Vancouver Archives and the Vancouver Public Library lined up with present-day shots. Another set entitled Just a Memory Now, catalogues buildings that didn’t survive the wrecking ball; a selection of those images along with Allison’s commentary, is now on the Multimedia section of our website here. Scroll through and you get a fascinating window into Vancouver’s ongoing development, and redevelopment, story. He just might be Vancouver’s next Major James Skitt Matthews or an architecturally-minded Foncie Pulice.

Image credit: John Allison

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on April 8, 2010 at 4:22 pm


A weekly round up of the news and cultural happenings we followed this week—and what’s coming up at MOV.

Empire Stadium rising! This isn’t a news event from the week so much as an expression of enthusiasm for the new-old Empire Stadium that’s very quickly taking shape in Hastings Park. So excited about its return! If you haven’t seen the goings on down there, check it out this weekend. (Are we forgetting the misery of watching football in cold November rain? Perhaps.) Blogger Miss 604 blog posted a nice round up of archive images of the original stadium in a December post linked here. The image at left is of the final BC Lions game played there in 1982.

The sea horse comes down: Hastings Street’s iconic Only Sea Foods (sic) sign came down this week. The sign has been dark since the storied restaurant closed last year (read our story on the closure here). Many of you have contacted us asking if we’re now in possession of the sign. Nope! The Portland Hotel Society is storing it in hopes of reinstalling it and reopening the diner somewhere, somehow. John Mackie has a thorough account in today’s Vancouver Sun; local historian John Atkin has a slideshow of the sign coming down on Flickr.

Fewer homeless on the streets, more in shelters. The good news: according to new figures released today, the city’s homeless residents are using emergency shelters. The bad: the shelters close next month. The worse: the number of people without permanent homes continues to grow, rising six per cent per year over the past two years. (CBC)

Wish we could be there: We often suffer a twinge of public program-envy when reading about the goings on at our favourite New York museums. Case in point: tonight, Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia speaks at the New Museum. A perfect guest to speak on the use of technology in cataloguing history, and the rise of mass curating! (New Museum)

And lastly… tomorrow night we host DIY@MOV2. I’ve written much about the social-crafting soiree on the blog and there are additional details on our Audience Engagement Calendar here. If you come, please send us feedback either by posting a comment here or via our Twitter account. Oh, and on Saturday morning we’re hosting an awesome felt workshop for kids and their parents; details here. Do hope to see you! Happy weekend.

Image credit: Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun files

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on April 1, 2010 at 1:50 pm


Our weekly round up of the news and cultural happenings we followed this week—and what’s coming up at MOV.

Think Velo-City-meets-Art of Craft: Last summer, we introduced our new look and mission with Velo-City: Vancouver and the Bicycle Revolution, an exhibit on the rise of local cycling culture. This summer, New York’s Museum of Arts and Design hosts Bespoke: The Handbuilt Bicycle, focusing on “the designs of six internationally renowned bicycle builders whose work in metal, as well as graphics and artifacts, elucidate this refined, intricate and deeply individual craft.” (Museum of Arts and Design)

Better in the ‘burbs? Vancouver’s not the only city trying to create a green businesses hub. This week, Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts “added clean-energy companies to the list of business that can get a break from the city if they locate there.” (Globe and Mail)

Wish we’d been there: So often Vancouver’s brightest artistic and design talents are celebrated outside the city limits. Last week, Stephanie Forsythe and Todd MacAllen of Molo Design were in New York speaking about a new museum they recently designed in Aomori, Japan. Much like Molo’s design practice, the city is known for its artful paper expertise, hosting an ancient paper festival each year. The museum will “house the festival’s floats year round and give visitors a chance to view the handcrafted floats as they’re being made.” Click the Azure magazine link for slideshow of their work and renderings of the museum project. (Azure)

Coming up at MOV: We’re about to change the scenery here. On Sunday, April 11, our two Cultural Olympiad shows, Tracing Night and Art of Craft, draw to a close. Before they go, we’re hosting round two of DIY@MOV, the social-crafting night we piloted a couple months back. We were thrilled with the response. This time around, there will be workshops on weaving, drawing, felting, spinning, jewellery making and collage. We’ve also expanded the onsite craft market. Click here for the complete list of vendors and to buy tickets. Happy long weekend!

Image credit: Sacha White via Museum of Arts and Design