is it money well-spent?

Vancouver’s Board of Parks and Recreation, which is composed of elected commissioners, is considering funding an installation created by Lead Pencil Studio for a park on the city’s east side, bordering neighbouring city of Burnaby.


There is concern that public money is being spent recklessly at a time when Vancouver is facing transit cuts (if a referendum fails to pass), a persistent and growing homeless population, and its standing as the world’s second-least affordable city to live in.

Tara Carman, writing in the Vancouver Sun: (complete article)

Staff are recommending approval of the $450,000 installation, entitled Home and Away, designed by Lead Pencil Studio. Artists drew inspiration for the sculpture from three historic structures Hastings Park is known for: the old bleachers and scoreboards at Empire Stadium, a constructed ski run built there in the 1950s and Playland’s signature wooden roller coaster. The bleachers, with the “home” side in blue and the “away” side in yellow, will be about 15 metres high, 30 metres long and hold a maximum of 150 people, according to a park board staff report. It will be located at the northwest corner of Empire Fields and visible from Hastings Street.

Empire Stadium 1954-1993

Empire Stadium 1954-1993


Playland's venerable wooden rollercoaster, constucted in 1958 and still going strong

Playland’s venerable wooden rollercoaster, constucted in 1958 and still going strong

Five days before the Board was to vote on funding the proposed work, I wrote them:

Dear Commissioners,
Much as I enjoy public art—my MA thesis was on public art in Vancouver, I produced a 23-episode series of short films on public art, and I’m giving a talk at the Harmony Arts Festival this summer in West Vancouver on public art—I do not support the proposed work for Hastings Park.
My reasons:
1. Public perception. In a time when this city is unaffordable to many, not only to potential home-buyers but to those who struggle to make enough to pay the rent, this expenditure is going to be seen as a shocking waste of public monies.
2. Too large, too imposing, and potentially too dangerous, even with guardrails. With the vertical insertions of the PNE’s Playland rides next to the park, another vertical structure, playful as it is, is too much for one area.
3. The Park Board could still assign those funds to art, but in a more low-key, spread-out series of projects, not necessarily installations of permanence.
4. What if the Park Board were to set aside these funds toward a major and exciting project to be built in a few years—for instance, something by Antony Gormley, or another artist of international calibre?



Shore to Shore: a new sculpture for Stanley Park

Coast Salish artist Luke Marston has created Shore to Shore, a four-metre tall work in bronze depicting his great-great grandparents, Portuguese pioneer Joe Silvey flanked by his first wife, Khaltinaht, and his second wife, Kwatleematt. (Joe’s first wife died of tuberculosis.)

Born on Pico Island, of Portugal’s Azores Islands, sometime between 1830 and 1840, Joseph Silvey began whaling when he was just 12 years old. In 1860, when Silvey came to the BC coast on a whaling schooner, he decided to jump ship to try his hand at gold-mining.

From harpooning whales in small open rowboats, to serving up liquor to rambunctious millworkers, to being the first man to have a seine license in BC, Silvey was the Renaissance man of his generation. His friends were many, and included saloon keeper Gassy Jack Deighton for whom Vancouver’s Gastown is named, his prestigious grandfather-in-law Chief Kiapilano (of the Capilano Nation) and a remittance man who liked to wear either his wife’s clothes or none at all.

Although Portuguese Joe and his family prospered – he had 11 children with two wives and his many descendants still populate the BC coast – they also had their share of grief. Joe’s first wife Khaltinaht died after a few short years of marriage; his eldest child Elizabeth was later kidnapped and forced to marry against her will; and his sixth child John was murdered in a rowboat while on his way to buy clams.

(Harbour Publishing: Jean Barman, The Remarkable Adventures of Portuguese Joe Silvey )

The video above is excerpted from documentary filmmaker Peter Campbell‘s feature-lenth project about Coast Salish artists and the creation of Marston’s Shore to Shore sculpture. There is also a new book, Shore to Shore, by Suzanne Fournier, available from Harbour Publishing, about Marston’s work and this sculpture in particular.

Some of Luke Marston’s beautiful work:

CBC Radio interview with Marston (8 minutes):

The Divide

Kevin King photo

Kevin King photo

“Let’s Heal The Divide” is a neon artwork by Toni Latour, a commission for the 2014-2016 Vancouver Biennale. It is installed at the crossroads between the impoverished, troubled downtown eastside and the financial district, on the front of Vancouver Community College, itself a victim of “the divide.”

The divide can be variously interpreted as rich/poor, immigrant/First Nations, or on gender identification, education, and other ways of grouping ourselves. The divide is what feeds misunderstanding: prejudice: violence. It is real but it can be bridged, by reaching out, listening, welcoming, being open to differences.

Toni Latour is an East Vancouver artist and educator.  Her works have been exhibited and collected nationally and internationally for 15 years, including an acquisition by the National Portrait Gallery of Canada.  Toni is also a 2-time Vancouver Biennale artist, with work installed at the Brighouse Skytrain Station in Richmond.  She taught at Capilano University for 11 years before the Studio Art program closed in 2014.  She currently teaches at Kwantlen University and the University of the Fraser Valley.  Her work can be seen at

The use of neon refers to Vancouver’s history as one of the neon capitals of North America; where once we had over 19,000 neon signs, many of them animated, now only a few remain, the result of neglect, gentrification, and the city’s policy of removing large advertising signs including billboards. Recently the Museum of Vancouver presented The Visible City, a retrospective of the neon signage. The location specific work is also a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Vancouver Community College, which has offered a diverse range of programming for the mosaic of cultures in the city. The Visible City is available as an Google Play/Android and iPhone app.

The sanctioned and the not-so-approved

On this corner in Metro Vancouver…

The city of New Westminster saw the unveiling on October 4 of a three-dimensional representation of a 1940 photograph which was taken at the same street corner where the statue will be situated. It is called Wait for Me, Daddy. The newspaper photographer was Claude P. Detloff.

Wait For Me, Daddy. 1940: Claude P. Dettloff, Vancouver Daily Province. Archives# CVA LP-109.

Wait For Me, Daddy. 1940: Claude P. Dettloff, Vancouver Daily Province. Archives# CVA LP-109.

Pictured are five-year-old Warren “Whitey” Bernard and his parents Bernice and Jack Bernard, as the family was about to be separated on October 1, 1940. When asked about the photo, Dettloff later told family that “he knew what he had even before he printed the picture.” Father and son were reunited in 1945.

Father and son reunited. 1945: Vancouver Province Newspaper

Father and son reunited. 1945: Vancouver Province Newspaper

The city of New Westminster, the oldest city on Canada’s west coast, commissioned Canadian sculptors Veronica and Edwin Dam De Nogales* to recreate this moment in bronze.

On October 1, 1940, Dettloff was photographing the British Columbian Regiment [Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles] march down 8th Street enroute to battle overseas. In a random moment, Dettloff snapped a young boy, Whitey Bernard, escape his mother’s grasp and run towards his father marching off to war. Wait for Me Daddy became an enduring symbol of Canada’s WWII effort. The photo appeared on the cover of Life Magazine, was displayed in every school in BC during the war, was showcased in the Canadian war bond fundraising campaign with Whitey Bernard on tour, is the 2nd most requested photograph in the National Archives and is amongst the 30 most popular photographs in the world. – From

I haven’t been out to see and shoot the monument yet, and the photos available online at “press time” aren’t of the best quality.


The Royal Canadian Mint has struck a new $2 coin commemorating the original event (click image for more info)

The Royal Canadian Mint has struck a new $2 coin commemorating the original event (click image for more info)

Canada Post has created a stamp commemorating the event - photo Elaine Yong, Global News. Click for story.

Canada Post has created a stamp commemorating the event – photo Elaine Yong, Global News. Click for story.

While in the other corner…

An unofficial work which was quickly taken down has been replaced by yet another unofficial, unsanctioned, uncommissioned public artwork.

In early September someone erected, no pun intended, this statue in an otherwise unassuming little corner off an industrial road overlooking a rapid-transit station:


Which, as you might imagine, caused some flurry of news cameras and editor’s concerns about how much to reveal.

 “The statue was not a piece of City commissioned artwork and consequently it has been removed,” explained city spokesperson Sara Couper to Global News.


The site was previously home to a bronze Christopher Columbus commemorative statue, installed in 1986. The statue was moved to the Italian Garden in Hastings Park 10 years ago.

And, this being Vancouver, there was a petition to bring it back, with 2,634 signatures. The city has not responded.

Click on image for story by Lindsay William-Ross, in

Click on image for story by Lindsay William-Ross, in

The city of Vancouver has removed a statue which had replaced a naked red devil art installation on an empty pedestal at a park plaza at Clark Drive and Grandview Highway.

The statue, a penguin sporting a bow tie, was erected Tuesday and is the second piece of non city commissioned art to be taken down off that pedestal, after the city last month removed a statue of a lusty Lucifer that could be seen from the SkyTrain. – Vancouver Sun, October 1 2014




Dude Chilling

Photograph by: Nick Procaylo , PNG

Photograph by: Nick Procaylo , PNG

Artist Viktor Briestensky cleverly copied the standard Vancouver Parks Board signage to create Dude Chilling Park on the site of the officially-named Guelph Park. He installed it without permission in November 2012, but it was subsequently removed by the Parks Board.

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 2.33.42 PM

Folks liked it, and an 1800-signature petition by locals convinced the board to return the sign to the park.

More than a year after citizens reacted with anger over its removal, the park board has voted to permanently reinstall a famous fake sign to its former chilling spot at an East Vancouver park.

During a meeting Monday night, the board approved Commissioner Sarah Blyth’s motion, returning the guerrilla-art installation of the “Dude Chilling Park” sign to Guelph Park (East 7th Avenue and Guelph Street). – Vancouver Sun, Feb 3 2014.


Since its reinstallation the work has been vandalized and now someone has stolen it…but Park Board Commissioner Sarah Blyth says it will be returned, she hopes, or replaced.

Twitter image.

Twitter image.

Which dude stole it? How will a cool sign remain, when there are so many basement suites begging for a “Dude Chilling” sign?

Some comments following an article in the weekly Georgia Straight:

Mark Bowen
A bit of harmless fun in “no fun city” and some people still find something to bitch about. Some real grumps around this place I tell ya.
Guelph Park is essentially named after one of England’s worst and most idiotic kings. Great change that reflects the community instead of dead royalty.
Doesn’t government approval make it kind of lame now?

‘Alka’ chilling out at Dude Chilling Park renamed from Guelph Park on Feb. 27, 2014. (Nick Procaylo/PNG)

‘Alka’ chilling out at Dude Chilling Park renamed from Guelph Park on Feb. 27, 2014. (Nick Procaylo/PNG)



Jonathan Borofsky

This video, produced by the Real Estate Channel for the Vancouver Biennale 2014-2016, is part of the Biennale’s BIG IDEAS educational program, which engages students with public art in various ways.

Human Structures Vancouver is located in the Olympic Village on the south shore of False Creek in Vancouver.

This sculpture, comprised of a series of brightly-coloured interconnected figures, conveys a sense of universal connectivity.  The distinctive shape of the galvanized steel plates refers to pixels, the base unit of computer imagery, and comments on the structural connections in our digital world.

For Borofsky, the organic, modular structure of Human Structures Vancouver suggests an ongoing process of building and learning.  In the artist’s own words, “we are all constantly in a process of connecting together to build our world…Humans use structures to build our world, not only architectural, but psychological and philosophical structures.” – Vancouver Biennale


OSGEMEOS: their largest mural

Gustavo and Otavio, or it is Otavio and Gustavo?

The Brazilian street artist twins Gustavo and Otavio Pandolfo, who call themselves OSGEMEOS (os gemeos = “the twins” in Portuguese), are currently (August 2014) painting what will be, at 7,162 square meters (23,500 sq.ft.) their largest mural to date. This is one of the key events in the current Vancouver Biennale (see also the previous article). Commercial painters were hired to apply the undercoat of 15 colours on the six sand and gravel-filled silos at Ocean Concrete, which is on Vancouver’s Granville Island next to the public market, restaurants and the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Throughout August Octavio and Gustavo, working from articulated lifts, will be spray-painting seven days a week. Over complex patterns, six characters will emerge, one per silo, each character alternately facing north (toward downtown) or south.

Granville Island. Photo © Evan Leeson

Granville Island. Photo © Evan Leeson

Granville Island Map


August 15, the underlying coats have been applied:

_DSF3370 copy _DSF3366 copy

One of the many challenges facing the twins is that this is a working site, and the silos are in use with sand and gravel. Sometimes the material spills over the side: you can see, in the second photo, a streak of windblown sand down the nearest silo, only hours after the paint was rolled on. Rain is a problem, delaying the start of their work by two days. And on the water side, there is a very narrow area for the lifts to operate in, between conveyer belts, girders and pipes, and the silos. In effect, to paint that side, the only way they can “step back” as every artist needs to do is to either take a water taxi across to the other side of False Creek or walk up onto the Granville Street bridge which is where these photos were taken.

Sunday August 17, morning

Sunday August 17, morning

As Michael Mann wrote recently in the weekly entertainment newspaper The Georgia Straight, the

360-degree, 23-metre-high public art project…will spread over the six Ocean Concrete silos on Granville Island. When it’s unveiled on September 7 for the 2014–2016 Biennale, not only will the mural be a beacon for art enthusiasts around the world, it’s certain to become the most Instagrammed landmark in Vancouver.

Ocean Concrete, south face, August 28

Ocean Concrete, south face, August 28

A promo video I created for the Vancouver Biennale’s Indiegogo campaign: