May 2010

Posted by: Erin Brown John on May 28, 2010 at 10:53 pm


A weekly round up of the local news, events, and cultural happenings we’re tracking.

The answer to Vancouver’s real estate crunch might just be the stackable modular house pictured left. The innovative 220 sq. ft. structure, called L41 (a play on “all for one”), was created by architect Michael Katz and designer Janet Corne. It was previously on view on the Concord Pacific site downtown and is now at 550 Great Northern Way. A typical laneway house of 500 sq. ft. seems capacious by comparison. (Globe and Mail)

Gentrification or neglect? A group of Commercial Drive residents hosted a block party in Grandview Park last weekend to express their opposition to aspects of park’s redesign. The $1.5-million project will take a year to complete and the park will be closed to the public during that time. According to Parks Board documents, another group called the Friends of Grandview Park led the redevelopment out of safety concerns for themselves and their kids. So, are The Drive’s sky-high real estate prices taking the proudly bohemian neighbourhood in a new direction? For so many years the neighbourhood lament was that West Side parks and amenities received preferential treatment. Where’s the line between infrastucture upgrades and gentrification? (Vancouver Courier)

Too pretty to be smart? The Canadian Council on Learning released their 2010 Composite Learning Index scores this week and Vancouver… did not fare so well. Among other things, our high-school dropout rate is above the national average, while our “exposure to reading” and “availability of workplace training” is below it. Our composite score was lower than all other major Canadian cities, including Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa, and Victoria—which topped the rankings with an overall score of 95% (!). We need to turn this ship around. An interactive map with all the scores is here.

How to learn the city’s history in a pinch. Love these “Year in Five Minutes” pieces from re:place magazine that are based on Chuck Davis’ popular History of Vancouver timelineIn the latest installment—1970—there’s a terrific archival picture of Fox & Fluevog Shoes’ old Gastown store. Wonder what happened to that awning? (re:place)

As I post this, we’re in the midst of A Night at MOV with Conor Holler, a live talk show presented by Vancouver is Awesome and hosted in our 200+ seat theatre. Did you attend? We’d love your feedback. Side note: Staff-led tours of Fox, Fluevog & Friends commence June 1 and will be on offer thrice-weekly throughout the exhibition. See our Audience Engagement calendar for  up-to-date information. Happy weekend.

Image credit: Simon Scott for The Globe and Mail

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on May 27, 2010 at 8:51 pm


Does MOV have a more enthusiastic supporter than Vancouver is Awesome? Doubtful. Since our relaunch last summer, the editors of the lively, relentlessly cheery blog-turned-not-for-profit-society have gone out of their way to support the Museum’s new direction and our feature exhibitions and programs.

We’re not so special. Vancouver is Awesome (V.I.A.) has a mandate to “study, promote, and preserve” the city’s artistic and cultural scene and to do it with a “positive spin.” On a given day you might find a review of a new artist-run project space like 304-days, coverage of a local musician’s album launch party, and a post about where to fill up your bicycle tires for free. The site is the brainchild of editor and founder Bob Kronbauer, a newish Vancouverite with a background in graphic design, documentary filmmaking, and fine-art photography (his first book, Beach Glass, is a collection of images taken in L.A. over a three-year period. He’s now working on a Vancouver version). The man is tireless.

We’ve wanted to collaborate with Bob and his team for some time now; tomorrow night, it’s happening. Through a new initiative we’re calling “MOV Programmers in Residence,” we’re hosting A Night at MOV with Conor Holler. Using a live talk show format, Holler will interview local talents Grant Lawrence of CBC Radio 3 fame, Charles Demers, author of the recently published book Vancouver Special, and a musical performance by Dan Mangan. Doors and bar open at 7 p.m.; show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are available for $25 here or at the door for $30.

Needless to say, we’re thrilled to be a part of V.I.A.’s foray into programming and hope it leads to other projects that celebrate what makes this city great. Join us.

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on May 24, 2010 at 11:26 am


Since relaunching last summer, we’ve followed the blog Museum 2.0 with interest. On it, Nina Simon, a multi-tasking author, consultant, and exhibit designer, makes the case for making museums more visitor centered and engaging. In other words: Incorporate the kinds of participatory tools people are already using on the social Web en masse. Sounds like a no-brainer, but for museums it represents a dramatic shift in how visitors are defined; “passive consumers” are now “cultural participants.”

It’s not mere branding speak but a matter of survival. Over the past two decades, cultural institutions have seen their audiences decline as other forms of entertainment and learning have emerged. A 2008 survey by the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts charted these trends; read it here.

“Visitors expect access to a broad spectrum of information sources and cultural perspectives,” Simon writes in the preface to her recently published book, The Participatory Museum. “They expect the ability to respond and be taken seriously. They expect the ability to discuss, share, and remix what they consume. When people can actively participate with cultural institutions, those places become central to cultural and community life.”

The good news? Simon believes history museums like ours (though we consider ourselves a history/city museum hybrid) are very well-positioned to make the transition. “As cultural anthropology has swung away from a vision of authoritative history and toward the embrace of multiple perspectives, there is potential for those stories to come from all over the place, including visitors themselves.” For us, this has meant turning a rather traditional arts and crafts exhibition into an opportunity to host DIY workshops and sharing the results online, and streaming images of Vancouverites and their bicycles into our exhibition on the city’s bicycle revolution—to name just two examples. Small gestures, perhaps, but part of a concerted effort to reflect what’s happening in the city in real time.

We’re constantly finding inspiration from the many incredible examples Simon uncovers. We loved the 3six5 project and theDenver Community Museum’s pop-up shop experiment (an image from it is pictured above). Way too many to list. On Wednesday, May 26 at 7:30 p.m., Nina Simon will join us via Skype to discuss her work, her book, and other great examples of participatory museums at work. Details on the event here. Hope you can swing it.

Image credit: Museum 2.0

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on May 20, 2010 at 10:28 pm


Our weekly round up of local news, events, and cultural happenings we’re tracking. Off we go…

One more whale skeleton and we’ve got a trend. The soon-to-open Beaty Biodiversity Museum at UBC has devoted their atrium to a blue-whale skeleton. On Saturday, Ottawa’s Museum of Nature will unveil an exhibit of a juvenile blue-whale skeleton, on view for the first time since it was donated in 1975. The museum has undergone an extensive six-year, $250-million overhaul that was part renovation (a view of the show-stealing staircases inside their ‘lantern’ addition is pictured left), part restoration, and aimed at showcasing Canada’s rich natural heritage. “Probably the only thing Canadians agree on is their pride in the physical beauty and remarkable nature of the natural environment of the country,” says Joanne DiCosimo, the museum’s president and CEO. “And our public wants to learn more about their impact on the natural environment as well as, as much as we can tell them about the changes through time in the natural landscape.” Image slideshow, video tour, and article found on Globe and Mail.

The chickens are coming! Almost! After much debate, column inches, airtime, etc., Vancouver is one step closer to backyard chicken coops. Earlier this week, City Council approved a plan recommending amendments to zoning and animal control by-laws, the creation of an online registry for hen keepers, safety and health regulations, and the creation of a city-run shelter for abandoned chickens.” (!) Next step: a public hearing to legalize the zoning and by-law amendments. Slowly but surely. (Vancouver Sun)

A tale of three cities. Vancouver is densely built but expensive. Calgary sprawls over rolling prairie land but is starting to think skyward (see the new urbanist-style neighbourhood of Mackenzie Towne). Toronto is somewhere in between. For a tidy summary of how three Canadian cities developed and where their respective planning efforts are taking them now, click the link. (Globe and Mail)

Last week, a pixelated whale. This week, giant sparrows! More public art has gone up on along the city’s waterfront, this time on the Olympic Plaza in Southeast False Creek. Local artist Myfanwy MacLeod’s pair of 18-feet-tall sparrows reference the neighbourhood’s past and present. According to the artist statement, “Locating this artwork in an urban plaza not only highlights what has become the ‘natural’ environment of the sparrow, it also reinforces the ’small’ problem of introducing a foreign species and the subsequent havoc wreaked upon our ecosystem.” They’re stunningly beautiful, too. The complete artist statement and images of the fabrication are found on the City of Vancouver’s website here. Happy long weekend.

Image credit: Pawel Dwulit for the Globe and Mail

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on May 19, 2010 at 9:45 pm


Quick post: Love this shot of Peter Fox (left) and John Fluevog taken in 1971 outside the Hotel Europe. (What is it about a flat-iron building that’s universally popular? Read the Gastown blog’s nice profile of the 101-year-old structure here). Timeless. And when plaid, three-piece suits are worn this confidently, they might be too.

Image courtesy of John Fluevog

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on May 18, 2010 at 5:43 pm


I recently stole away to Seattle for a brief field trip. Am always amazed by how two cities of similar vintage, size, and geography could have so much in common yet feel so very different; American and Canadian versions of each other.

One of the biggest news stories unfolding there currently is the redevelopment of South Lake Union. How the central neighbourhood has avoided redevelopment until now is uncertain, positioned as it is between downtown, Capitol Hill, and connected to the all-important I-5. Development has been spurred by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s investment firm Vulcan Inc., and the addition of a streetcar line to the area. (Side note: the line has been so well received that another line has just been approved. Click here for details.)

It’s tempting to compare South Lake Union’s revival to, say, Yaletown’s or Southeast False Creek’s, but the notable difference is jobs. Seattle is brilliant at incorporating job centres with residential buildings. South Lake Union is now home to a just-opened Amazon campus. When it’s combined with offices for The Gates Foundation, Path, and Biomed, the neigbhourhood will see 15,000 new workers added over the next five years. No wonder some of the city’s best restaurants have recently moved in (Mistral Kitchen) or are planning to move (Flying Fish).

Seattle didn’t have the concentration of neon signs that Vancouver once did, but they didn’t experience what MOV’s Joan Seidl dubs “the visual purity crusade” that saw so many of them removed either. Drive up Denny Way and take Aurora Boulevard north. There, mixed in with the car dealerships and motor hotels (think Kingsway), so many mid-century signs still exist—many still in great condition. Our favourite one along that stretch is the Pepsi sign pictured above. For other signs located elsewhere in the city, refer to the driving guide assembled by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer here. They call the tour a “windshield museum.” Love that idea.

p.s. If you head down this summer, be sure to visit the new farmer’s market set to open in July at the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park—another urban planning feat. Details here.

Image credit: Mr. Phelps

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on May 13, 2010 at 10:54 pm


A round up of news stories we’re following, plus other events and cultural happenings worth a notice.

Whales, actual and pixelated. Last week, a grey whale swam deep into False Creek, apparently drawn to the rehabilitated shoreline fronting the new Southeast False Creek neighbourhood. Then, a new public artwork depicting an orca whale was installed on the plaza outside the Vancouver Convention Centre. According to artist Douglas Coupland, Digital Orca “breaks down a three-dimensional Orca whale (they are really dolphins not whales, but I digress…) into cubic pixels—making a familiar symbol of the West Coast become something unexpected and new.” It’s already drawing crowds. (Price Tags)

Remembering Lorne “Ace” Atkinson. The local cycling legend and owner of Ace Cycles on West Broadway passed away on April 23. He was 88. Last summer, his spare, handmade track bike from the 1954 Empire Games appeared in the MOV exhibition Velo-City: Vancouver and the Bicycle Revolutiona symbol of his long dedication to the sport. Yesterday, the Globe and Mail published a feature-length obituary on his life and impact on the city’s cycling culture. (Globe and Mail)

Maybe next year? As everyone in this city knows by now, the Vancouver Canucks are finished for another season. What does the team need? I retweeted this post from Vancouver magazine the morning after their elimination by the Blackhawks but it bears repeating: “1. Shrink for Luongo. 2. Byfuglien-sized forward. 3. All-Star-calibre D-man. 4. More Green Men. What else?” (Vancouver magazine)

What Vancouverites are actually reading. The most-read article on the Vancouver Sun’s website today was… this. (At least it doesn’t involve Kate Gosselin. She usually occupies the top spot.) (Vancouver Sun)

What we’re working on: Thanks to everyone who attended the opening party for Fox, Fluevog & Friends tonight. The exhibition opens officially tomorrow and runs through September 26, 2010. Our first related public program happens this Sunday at 7 p.m. with the premiere of The Colour of Beauty. The documentary-short examines racism in the fashion industry and is presented by MOV, Schema Magazine, and the National Film Board. A panel discussion and reception will follow the screening and—bonus!—admission to the film is free. Another bonus: a discounted rate of $10 gets you into the exhibition. Details on the event are linked here. Happy weekend.

Image credit: Susan Gittins

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on May 12, 2010 at 10:33 pm



Has there ever been such a pun-friendly name as Fluevog? In the 40 years that John Fluevog has been in the shoe business, he’s certainly played off of it, using it as a noun, adjective, and verb—see his chatty website for a sample—all the while building a colourful, forward-thinking, and innovative business that’s only partly about shoes.

From the outset, both the store and Fox’s designs pushed traditional (read: safe) shoes aside in favour of bold, unconventional silhouettes and dramatic detailing. Picture fur-collared ankle boots, multi-hued platform heels, or handmade wooden clogs (the handiwork of their collaborator Ken Rice). In short: Shoes made by risk-takers, for risk-takers. Celebrities like Robert Altman and Julie Christie were fans; others just didn’t get it (Fluevog recalls people walking past the store windows exclaiming “Who would wear these?!”).

In a feature MOV exhibition that opens Thursday night, curator Joan Seidl has traced the Vancouver company back to 1970, when a men’s shoe store named Fox & Fluevog opened at 2 Powell St. in Gastown. With $13,500 borrowed from his dad, then-22-year-old Fluevog and business partner/mentor Peter Fox aimed to build off their retail experience at the venerable Evans Sheppard shoe store on Hastings Street. Peter Fox, a London native, was also working on his own shoe designs which reflected his interest in art history and Carnaby Street’s emerging modish aesthetic.


Fox and Fluevog parted amicably in 1981. Fox moved to New York to focus on his own label; Fluevog took over Fox & Fluevog running it as “just another shoe store” until competition from big chains forced him to rethink his business model—and to take the leap into designing himself. Though his work shares Fox’s unselfconscious design philosophy, it is his skill at branding that has pushed him into new and interesting territory, and earned him a cult-like following.

Working with local illustrator and creative director Dave Webber of Webbervision in Gastown, the two have established a brand that is urban, worldly, off-beat, acerbic, gently subversive, and an attempt to “above all… avoid anything that smacks of being ‘just advertising’.” Old Fluevog catalogues featured in the exhibition comment on such topics as religion, consumerism, and human nature. They feature incredible shoes, too.


In an interview on CBC Radio that aired this morning (click here to hear it), Fox and Fluevog said they didn’t know they were breaking new ground so much as doing things that interested them and designing shoes they couldn’t find elsewhere. Over 3,500 square feet of gallery space has been turned over to a selection of their work. Some 150 pairs of shoes appear alongside photographs, catalogues, press, and ephemera, and yet it’s only a glimpse of their work and its impact to date. There’s most definitely more to come.

Image descriptions, from top to bottom:
A Fox and Fluevog clog from the mid-1970s.
A sketch by Peter Fox.
A selection of John Fluevog shoes designed between 1980 to 2000.

All images by  Kirsti Wakelin.

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on May 6, 2010 at 10:32 am


This week’s round up of news and cultural happenings is rather museum-heavy; always lots going on as institutions prepare to launch their summer blockbusters. We’re no exception: Fox, Fluevog & Friends: The Story Behind the Shoeslaunches exactly one week today (one of the 150 pair of shoes featured in the exhibition is pictured left). The building is buzzing.

The quest for the 20-minute neighbourhood. Ever since last year’s feature exhibition Velo-City: Vancouver and the Bicycle Revolution, we’ve kept an eye on two-wheeled matters—news, ideas, design, etc. But what of pedestrian traffic as a city-making/organizing tool? The City of Portland recently unveiled a new 30-year plan for the city that introduced the concept of the 20-minute neighbourhood. “The idea? Simple: everything a person needs for his or her daily life should be within an inviting 20-minute stroll of home.” Key components include things like walkability, scale, density, and amenities like transit connections, schools, and parks. Most interesting is this: though Portland is held up as a model of progressive urban planning and livability, only one district comes closest to meeting this ideal. Wonder how many neighbourhoods in Vancouver would pass the test. (Portland Monthly)

Golden king = gold. This week, Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario wrapped up their exhibition King Tut: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs reporting incredible and inspiring stats. Over 400,000 people visited during the 24-week run—47% of them first-time visitors. “Gallery memberships also increased strongly, with 12,450 new members.” AGO director Matthew Teitelbaum said they hosted the exhibition to attract a new audience, but admits the results were unprecedented. It’s also a sure sign that the boundaries between art gallery, history museum, and cultural space are increasingly blurry—all for the better. (Globe and Mail)

BC Place’s roof deflates, real story missed. The bubbled white roof came down on BC Place stadium this week, amid much chatter about the stadium’s future: “Why not tear the whole thing down?”, “Is a new retractable roof really necessary?”, “What benefit to stadiums actually bring to downtowns anyhow?” In typical Vancouver fashion it was all a tad… over-thought in the eleventh hour. Here’s an angle missed by both the media and PavCo (the crown corporation that oversees the place): As Vancouver bills itself as an efficient, sustainable, and all around smart city, shouldn’t we be finding ways to repurpose existing structures? Finding ways to make dated venues fit into contemporary uses? Extend their often all-too-short life cycle? (Read about the environmental toll of concrete production in the excellent 2002 book Cradle-to-Cradle; you won’t look at the ubiquitous building material quite the same way again.)

What a £20-million museum rethink and marketing blitz looks like. On May 28, the Museum of London will launch their Galleries of Modern London, the results of a three-year re-think of five exhibition spaces. (In London, the “modern” era starts from 1666 and runs to the present making the project all the more daunting.) I love the simplicity of their “You are here” marketing concept, which features off-beat archival shots of urban life over the centuries. Details on the project, plus a slideshow of the new spaces is found on the museum’s website here. Additional coverage in Marketing Magazine.

Image credit: Rebecca Blissett for the Museum of Vancouver