MOVments: Sizing Up the City

With big events like Vancouver Pride and the London summer Olympics in full swing this week,  the city is in a perfect position to reflect on where we're at, how far we've come, and where we're going. This week, MOVments looks at Vancouver's Olympic legacy, where the city is at with its fight against homophobia, and the ways that we're quantifying and collecting data on our neighbourhoods.

Olympic Dreams. Former director of city planning in Vancouver, Brent Toderian compares the common problems faced by Olympic host cities as London's games get under way. He says that London's pre-Olympics complaints may seem very familiar to Vancouverites, who also strove to strike a "balance between booster-ism and cynicism" in 2010. From Toderian's perspective, Vancouver's Olympic legacy was its adaptability in the face of obstacles and the unparalleled celebratory spirit it brought to Canada. For more on Vancouver athletes in this year's games, check out this Vancouver Courier article

Hope and Pride. With Pride Week starting this Monday, many are asking how far Vancouver has really come in tackling homophobia and transphobia. Vancouver Park Board commissioner Trevor Loke said yesterday that while we've made progress, we still have a long way to go. Cuts in funding to HIV/AIDS programs and ongoing discrimination against trans-gendered individuals in particular, continue to be challenges for LGBTQ advocates. On a positive note, Former councillor Ellen Woodsworth pointed to the position of openly gay swimmer Mark Tewksbury as leader of the Canadian team at the London Olympics as a sign of real progress. And with Pride underway, the Vancouver Queer Film Festival is just around the corner. Check out the Georgia Straight's picks for the festival.

Shaping our Neighbourhoods. The Carnegie Mellon University is using social media check-in programs like Twitter and Foursquare to compile information about neighbourhoods in various cities, including Vancouver, for their new Livehoods project. When smartphone users check-in to nearby locations, the program produces coloured constellations on a map, revealing neighbourhoods shaped by collective preferences and distribution patterns. Interestingly, the movements on Livehoods reflect, but rarely match, the city's official neighbourhood boundaries. 

Feeding the Masses. And finally in unrelated (but delicious) news: Vancouver had its third annual Amazing Grilled Cheese Giveaway on Saturday. Check out the Vancouver is Awesome post for some photos of the happy sandwich eaters on Union Street.

At the MOVeum:
August 16 - Volunteer Information Session

[Image: Social media map of Vancouver. Courtesy of]


A year later. Did the Olympics make Vancouver a better city? Lance Bereloqitz and Matt Hern debate in the Tyee.

Another question. Can Vancouver become the ‘best place on Earth’?

At Home. A few months ago the Boseman Hotel became home to several homeless people as part of a Canada-wide study about the effects of providing housing for the homeless. An article in the Vancouver Sun looks at it’s progress so far.

Suburban and invisible. More on the changing face of homelessnessness. At a time when great strides are being made to address homelessness in Vancouver, the problem is growing in nearby municipalities. Megaphone takes a look.

The Forgotten. I highly recommend having a look at this series of articles on the Vancouver Observer about the Museum of Anthropology’s cancelled exhibit about the missing women of the DTES and the challenges of exploring such a difficult issue both through art and in a museum setting.

Olympic Village Plan B. Reduce prices and maintenance fees, sell selected condos and rent out others, and rename the whole thing “The Village on False Creek.” Hopefully that will get people to finally live there.

Image: kennymatic, via flickr.

MOVments from the week and a look at what’s ahead


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.

Getting the city we want

A couple days ago, I tweeted a link to a blog post written by Frances Bula, the ever-productive urban affairs/Vancouver City Hall writer. Followed for her forward-thinking and pragmatic reporting, Bula proposed three ideas the city should adopt to keep the Olympic vibe alive. Specifically: adding an aboriginal museum downtown; removing red tape around street food and sidewalk cafes, and; coming up with incentives to keep people using public transit like they did these past couple weeks (i.e. free transit attached to event tickets, temporary U-passes, etc). The complete post and the 47 other suggestions it’s spawned to date are linked here.

Whatever the outcomes of all this city-making-from-the-ground talk—and maybe it is just talk—it’s been pretty incredible to see the conversation unfolding everywhere, especially outside the usual circles. This is precisely the kind of citizen engagement that local writer and educator Matt Hern advocates in his just-published book Common Ground in a Liquid City (AK Press 2010). In it, he calls on Vancouver to find a new, organic, participatory way into its future.

Each chapter is based around a city case study. Some of the cities are an entertaining mess (Las Vegas), others admirable (New York, Portland), and all of them compared against Vancouver—make that East Vancouver. (Hern’s blunt analysis—East Van = authentic and noble; Rest of Vancouver = not—will be familiar to his followers.) He advocates strongly for the rejection of the globalizing forces he sees as threatening diversity of “place” and calls for “a thoughtful relocalization of pretty much everything.” The vision calls for steadfast citizen involvement at every turn: “City-building leadership cannot fall to experts, bureaucrats, or planners. People have to make cities by accretion: bit-by-bit, rejecting master plans and letting the place unfold.”

Many of the statements made in the book are contentious, intentionally so. (I would argue that as in New York and Paris, some of Vancouver’s best decisions—particularly those made in recent years—have come from master plans, which Hern is very critical of; see chapter four.) Wherever you sit on these issues, he has pulled together a diverse group of often lesser-known approaches to city life and related them to what’s happening in Vancouver now. “Even in the face of the Olympics, the Gateway Project, and an increasingly brazen corporate governance structure, I think we still have a real chance to remake this city using some compelling, radical urban traditions and examples.” It all makes for fascinating dinner-party fodder (especially his ideas around class divisions here), and can serve as a primer for the brainstorming sessions playing out on places like Frances Bula’s blog. Track down a copy and tell us what you think.

Cover design credit by John Yates for AK Press.

Art of Craft: Two upcoming family programs + Handmade Nation

The Olympic Games may be over, but the Cultural Olympiad continues—now without the complications of capacity crowds (fun as they were!). Starting next weekend, we resume public programs with a series of events relating to Art of Craft, one of the exhibits we’re hosting as part of the Olympiad.

On March 13, there’s a MOV Kids & Family collage workshop hosted by local textile artist Bettina Matzkuhn, whose work is featured in Art of Craft. Participants bring scraps and materials from home; we’ll have sewing supplies. The workshop is free with regular admission and recommended for a range of ages, though parental involvement is required. Further details are found on our Engagement Calendar.

We’ll follow that workshop with a second family program on March 20 that will be hosted by ceramicist Eliza Au, another talented local artist featured in the exhibit. She’ll lead a session transforming cardboard cutouts and shapes into 3D animals. Free with regular admission; details here.

There’s also a screening of “Handmade Nation” coming up on March 19 in our on-site, 200+-seat theatre. (Note: We’ve received a lot of interest in this film and highly recommend buying tickets in advance here.) The 2009 documentary by first-time filmmaker, long-time crafter and gallery owner Faythe Levine captures the sprawling DIY craft movement in 15 American cities. By their very nature, DIYers are a diverse, amorphous lot, but Levine might be considered their leader; The New York Times calls her the Ambassador of Handmade. Her film was three years in the making and resulted in the publication of a book of the same name.

In an interview with Threadbanger workshop—and available here on YouTube—Levine says “Handmade Nation” was inspired by what she saw unfolding around her. Namely: a new generation reclaiming almost-lost handmade arts.

“I really believe that the act of making and the process that goes into making creative decisions is what is at the core of DIY and the importance of the movement. And I think that what everyone has to gain from one another within the community, and what this documentary is really about, is that empowering feeling that you get from making something.”

Image credit: 2 days in the rain

2050 is the new 2010


We’re not even halfway through the Olympics, but in some circles the conversation is already shifting to a post-Games analysis—that is, aside from the bad press, particularly from cities that have hosted the Games (see a story from Utah’s Daily Herald newspaper here) or are set to (coverage from London here). What’s that about?

There are several local events and fora in the offing to examine the impact the event had on the city, their legacy (get used to hearing thatword), and where we’re headed more generally without a massive deadline or international audience to steer our efforts. Vancouverites who lived through Expo 86 must experiencing profound sense of deja vu.

An article in Fast Company magazine posted online last week described the governing principle of Vancouver’s Olympics as “leave no trace.” Full story here. We won’t have a Bird’s Nest stadium to look to like Beijing, nor will Vancouver become a major winter sports training hub like Calgary became after ‘88 (though Whistler is certainly and rightfully poised to). From the outset, VANOC and City Hall’s long-term vision for the city involved green condos and facilities that could be repurposed into stunning community centres that were already needed. The Olympic Village just received LEED Platinum certification making it officially the greenest neighbourhood in the world; current—and more widely read—headlines about the malfunctioning zamboni and fenced-off cauldron, et al, seem pretty useless in this context. And at the risk of getting into this further, why do we seem to care so much about what a reporter from the Times says about us? I highly doubt Londoners will scrutize our coverage of their Olympics so closely. Good on them.

Back to 2050. Busby Perkins + Will and Concord Pacific recently launched Shape Vancouver, a website/poll that allows users to manipulate the existing downtown skyline to see how increasing building density leads to a more sustainable city, reducing carbon emissions, taking cars off the street, etc. An amalgamation of all 4,840 users’ skylines is now on the site. Click here to see it.

There’s also a panel discussion on the future of arts and culture here planned for April 24 at the Arts Club Revue Stage on Granville Island. Entitled “Vancouver 2050: A Creative City!” it will feature addresses by Vancouver Symphony’s Maestro Bramwell Tovey and PuSH Festival’s Norman Armour, and will be moderated by Max Wyman. A few more details about it here.

We also hear that the B.C. chapter of the Urban Land Institute will be hosting an ongoing series of events on what Vancouver will look like in 2050. We’ll post further details as they emerge.

Our role? To be the memory of the time, collecting everything from notable media coverage to programs to protest signs—all the ephemera that gets so easily lost but drives the story. Please do keep an eye peeled for flyers, banners, buttons, hats, and other objects of potential significance. Collect it, and carefully attach a note stating its provenance (where, when, who, and why). After the Games rush is over, get in touch with Wendy Nichols, our curator of collections at 604-730-5312 or send her an e-mail at


A few of our favourite things from the Games



This is less a piece of writing than a working list of our favourite things to come out of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. A caveat: many of these things aren’t directly linked to the Olympics, but may have been accelerated by them.

Favourite transit project: So many column inches have been written about streetcars in Vancouver—why we took them off city streets so many years ago, why we don’t add one down the old Arbutus rail corridor, why we didn’t build a grid of streetcars instead of a subway line. Vancouverites—or maybe it’s just reporters?—are obsessed with the things. So when the (also) much-written about streetcar line between Granville Island and the Olympic Village Canada Line station was reopened for the Games as part of a demonstration project years in the planning—and with free fares to boot—it was something of a miracle. The length of the line is akin to Seattle’s monorail system (read: short) but it’s a needed connection to an under-served area, and fun to ride. More details on the project linked here.

Favourite Games spin-off at MOV: There are many. Hosting a binational craft show with a section devoted to the work of local craftspeople and artists ranks highly. The B.C./Yukon section of the exhibit was curated by Kirsti Wakelin and Darren Carcary of Resolve Design (read more about them in this January post), who produced four lovely short films of artists at work in their studios. One of the films is posted on the design section of Wakelin’s website here. We’ll post the videos to the multimedia section of this website soon, too.

Another of our favourite Games projects has been working with artist Ed Pien, whose installation Tracing Night opened here two weeks ago. As a city museum, we don’t often host works of this nature. It was one of those rare cultural opportunities that come along with the Olympics and we were thrilled to have it. Working with an artist of Pien’s calibre has been an absolute pleasure. I’ll post my notes on his recent curator’s talk in the coming days.



Favourite souvenir: Everyone has the red mittens with maple leafs on the palms (us too). Not everyone has one of these beautifully designed, limited edition, graphic umbrellas. Sold for $20 at Vancouver Special (3612 Main St.), they feature a street grid of Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside with venues and events highlighted in red. Proceeds benefit the Bright Light public art project.

Favourite flash mob: We’re just not used to seeing this kind of thing in Vancouver. Which isn’t to say we’re a sullen lot, we’re just not typically so… gregarious. On the weekend, a crowd of hundreds who’d been rehearsing a dance routine set to Martha and the Vandellas’s “Dancing in the Street” descended on Robson Street to perform it. Many videos of the shenanigans are found on YouTube here. It was fun, frosh-week-esque, and we can’t stop watching it.

Welcome world! Fascinated by what you're writing about us

So much going on it’s hard to keep up! There’s too much to write; we’ll post more over the coming days.

It’s too early to get into the Games, but so far we’ve been fascinated by—among many, many other things—all the reporting and essays coming out about Vancouver and Canada. Three must-reads so far.

—From today’s New York Times“Crib Notes on Canada, From a Canadian” by Bruce Headlam. For a smart, humorous summary of our nation’s history and character, look no further.

—In Saturday’s Globe and Mail, architecture critic Lisa Rochon has written on Vancouver’s Southeast False Creek neighbourhood—currently home to 3,000 Olympic athletes, and still looking much like a construction zone. No matter. Rochon, who has written critically of the dearth of notable buildings here, hails the area as an urban accomplishment: “It will do for Vancouver what the St. Lawrence neighbourhood did for Toronto in the 1970s—catapult the city as a test zone of urban daring.” The feature story is linked here.

—Gary Stephen Ross’ essay in the current issue of The Walrus magazine. Called “A Tale of Two Cities” it’s a thorough, beautifully written overview of the contemporary history and culture of the city.

How do you think the Games are going now that they’re finally here? And if you’ve come across any great analysis on Vancouver these days, please post a link to it in the comment section below.


The intimate, evocative work of Ed Pien

Tonight marks the opening Tracing Night, the second exhibit MOV is hosting as part of the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad, and on view until April 11. The launch party starts at 7 p.m.; tickets available here or at the door.

Tracing Night defies easy classification: it’s an installation piece that serves as a stand-alone exhibit; it’s art layered with history, mythology, and psychology; it’s an elaborate drawing that needs to be entered into to be understood, and one heightened by video projection and a humming, eerie sound scape. In many respects, it’s an unusual choice for a city museum, but its location is somehow fitting, occupying a cavernous 1,000-square-foot gallery wedged between our permanent history galleries and Art of Craft, a binational survey of pieces from Canada and Korea (and our second Cultural Olympiad show).

Tracing Night was among Ed Pien’s early immersive works, and now, several years after its completion, it remains deeply personal to him. In an interview with Amanda Gibbs, MOV’s director of audience engagement, Pien described his intention to explore or recreate a child’s fear of, and fascination with, being in the dark. He researched different mythological interpretations of night and darkness, centering on the Rabbit Girl found in Inuit lore. She serves as the heroine of the piece.

“The mood is not meant to be that of a haunted house,” says Pien, “but a seductive experience where you’re drawn into the space… It keys on the possible darkness of the human soul, but it is ultimately a creative and joyful exploration—there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Pien is based on Toronto and represented by several galleries; the Pierre-Francois Ouellette Art Contemporain gallery in Montreal has an thorough description of his work and images of it. Click here for details.

On Thursday night at 7 p.m., Ed Pien will lead a discussion of Tracing Night (event details here), focusing on its references to Inuit culture and the compelling work of artist Irene Avaalaaqiaq; I’ll post an update accordingly.

Image credit:

The 2010 Games loom. Will we be good hosts?


In this morning’s Globe and Mail, columnist Gary Mason says the success of the 2010 Games will depend on two things. One: medal count—including golds in Men and Women’s Hockey. And two: the quality of Vancouver’s hospitality. Will we make room on too-crowded city buses? Give directions when we see bewildered visitors with a map folded out in front of them? Mason argues we’re an aloof, phlegmatic bunch, writing: “Let’s just say, Vancouver will never be a city in which it’s easy to find volunteers for a pancake breakfast.” We’re nice. Gregarious? Not so much. Read the rest of the column here.

Our observation? We’re at our friendliest outdoors. The same person who breezes past you on the street, calls out a bright “hello!” on the hiking trail—even on the Grouse Grind, which is usually packed with tourists wearing inappropriate footwear. In wintertime, we don’t huddle together in pubs, we head outdoors. We head to winter sporting events when we’re not participating in them. We crave open air. So, while it’s impossible to say how we’ll deal with epic traffic snarls and confused masses, we’re betting that love of winter sport will carry us through. Thoughts?



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