July 27th, 2010 Meeting Artist & Curator Barbara Cole at the CBC Plaza

Walking Home Yaletown Public Art  July 27 2010 – Downtown Art Walk with Barbara Cole

by Samantha Knopp

Tuesday July 27th marked our last official day together walking through Vancouver. Unfortunately, I had to miss this final segment as a pre-planned camping trip with the family whisked me off to Whistler. Luckily, I had some idea of the treat my fellow participants were in for: Barbara Cole, the guide for the day’s session, was my teacher for a recent class – Community Projects: Places, Audiences and Issues – on public art at Emily Carr.

Laurie recording Barbara Cole/ Photo by Bali Singh

Barbara Cole worked for the City of Vancouver Public Art Program and now is an independent public art consultant. She is also the Executive Director of Other Sights for Artists’ Projects. She has taught sessionally at Emily Carr for over 20 years. These experiences have given her an extensive knowledge of the history of Vancouver and its visual culture. On this day, the group met up with Barbara Cole at CBC Plaza to look at a piece she curated titled Last Chance by artist Eric Deis. Before this, Program Director Catherine Pulkinghorn took  the group on a tour of the downtown area, between the Downtown Vancouver Library and BC Place Stadium.[1]

WHYPA Participants at Writing to You/Photo by Bali Singh

After catching up with some my fellow-participants on Thursday, I discovered one of their favourite pieces was Writing to You by Ian Carr-Harris & Yvonne Lammerich, which was commissioned as a part of the City of Vancouver’s Public Art Program. The work is adjacent to the British Columbia Regiment Drill Hall on Beatty Street, situated in a small park consisting of a few trees, benches, and a rectangular grass plot. A bronze cast of a military trunk with a lantern is at the west end of the lawn, and a cast bronze table stands on the east end.  Each of these objects has a couple of pages of sheet-metal “letters” that look as though they’ve just been opened and read by their recipients. The work was inspired by the correspondence between a British Columbia Regiment officer stationed in Europe and his wife who stayed in Canada during WWII. The letters give the viewer some insight into these lives and this period.  The work invites the viewer to reflect on the distribution of news, personal affection, loneliness, longing, and anxiety.

WHYPA Participants at Writing to You/ Photo by Bali Singh

Given the Drill Hall’s proximity to this work, the piece is both respectful and thoughtful. Unlike most artworks and monuments inspired by war, the focus is not on the horrific losses of battle, but rather, the daily experiences of those affected. For me, it’s this shift towards the individual day-to-day experience that makes the piece so powerful. Reading the letters, one easily begins to picture the individuals who penned those thoughts.  The work isn’t flashy, but its subtlety suits it, and when the viewer lingers, the beauty of the piece is almost haunting.

One of the works that did not gain the same admiration was “The Terry Fox Memorial,” by architect Franklin Allen and artist Ian Bateson. It was built in 1984 by the province of B.C., and has since been adopted into the City of Vancouver’s Public Art Program. This large architectural memorial is supposed to be an “interpretation of the triumphal arches of Rome.”[2] The arch uses Shoji[3] windows, and has four stone lions standing guard on top of the monument. Within the arch one finds photo-realistic etchings of a map of Canada and of Terry Fox on a steel surface.

Terry Fox Memorial / Photo by Bali Singh

Even with this very brief description, one can tell that there’s a lot going on! For a piece that was supposed to honour one of Canada’s greatest heroes, the focus is unclear. The viewer is not drawn immediately to the etchings on the inside, but instead to the strange oriental arch that uses modern building materials like beige vinyl siding and steel framing. Terry Fox is almost an unrelated afterthought, a drawn on detail stuck inside the arch. There is no clear correlation to the runner or his legacy in the construction, and the materials used do not help the work stand the test of time. The work has been neglected and really shows its many years in the elements; the work is dirty, and because of the 80’s building materials, it seems dated. The group has seen this situation a few times now, but these older public artworks are a constant reminder that the contracts and negotiations regarding maintenance and permanence are extremely important.

Last Chance by Eric Deis/ Photo by Bali Singh

Barbara met with the group for the last half of the session, at Eric Deis’ piece Last Chance, at the  700 block of Hamilton Street in CBC Plaza. Barbara undoubtedly shared a plethora of information about the work, as the organization Other Sights, which she helps manage, was responsible for curating the space. Other Sights is a non-profit society that promotes and facilitates temporary art projects in public spaces. Implementing Last Chancewas a joint effort that included Other Sights, The Vancouver Heritage Foundation, JJ Bean, and the CBC.[4] Dies’ piece is a blown-up photograph depicting Richards Street in downtown Vancouver only a few years ago. It shows a small house right beside a condominium sale office; the presence of a residential tower in the background foreshadows the fate of the small house in the foreground. The work highlights the rapid construction and migration to Vancouver’s downtown core in the last decade, and forces the viewer to evaluate the impact of this transition.

The Games are Open/ Photo from Other Sights website (http://www.othersights.ca)

Another interesting project Other Sights is helping to facilitate is happening at the Olympic Village where two artists, Folke Köbberling and Martin Kaltwasser, are busy creating an outdoor public artwork entitled The Games Are Open beside the new residential development.  Barbara Cole is the project’s director and one of our own Walking Home Project participants, Neudis, is assisting the artists, so I’m sure the group got a lot of insight into the project.  The artists are using the compostable material leftover from the Olympic Village’s construction to build a large bulldozer structure that will be covered by plant life and left to biodegrade through weather and community interventions[5]. This work is interesting because it differs from the public artworks we have looked at before. The Games Are Openis not intended as a permanent piece of art; in fact the “art” is a work of natural “performance” more than one of permanent construction. It is important to remember that public artwork doesn’t just have to be the typical bronze cast sculpture, but can exist in a variety of media with ranging permanence. I feel that having Barbara as our last guest was a great wrap-up for our final “walking” session, as learning about Other Sights and its endeavours is an encouraging sign that our city is a welcoming place a for diverse range of artistic projects, with many organizations and sponsors eager to help this creativity happen.

-Sam Knopp

[1] The public artworks visited in the area include: The Fulcrum of Vision by Mowry Baden, Percy Williams by Ann McLaren, Uncoverings by Jill Anholt & Susan Ockwell, Terry Fox Memorial by Franklin Allen/The Corner Group Architects & Ian Bateson, Writing to You by Ian Carr-Harris & Yvonne Lammerich and Last Chance by Eric Deis.


[2] http://vancouver.ca/publicart_wac/publicart.exe/indiv_artwork?pnRegistry_No=161

[3] A Japanese door, window, or standing screen made of translucent paper covering a wooden frame.

[4] http://www.othersights.ca/pressrelease/last-chance-eric-deis/

[5] http://www.othersights.ca/

Artist & Curator Barbara Cole spoke at The Vancouver Art Gallery about “Making Space”: Fillip podcast: Barbara Cole: Making Space

The above podcast was published by and can be found atfillip.ca Fillip is a publication of art, culture, and ideas released three times a year by the Projectile Publishing Society from Vancouver, BC.


Laurie interviews Justine/ Photo by Bali Singh

July 27th, 2010 Stadium-Chinatown and Barbara Cole

by Justine Lee

On Tuesday we met at the Stadium-Chinatown skytrain station. It was a much smaller group but Hiiro and I both commented that the size provided a more intimate environment which was nice on that particular day. We walked past the Beatty Street Drill Hall, an armoury located right in downtown Vancouver (at the intersection of Beatty St. and Cambie St.) which houses the British Columbia Regiment. Catherine explained to us that during election period the armoury is rented out as a voting pavilion and how strange it was for her to see men in uniform walking around with guns in a space that is right in the city. We admired the old army tanks and a cannon, then came across a park that was adjacent to the armoury. In this park were two pieces of public art, both part of the installment titled “Writing to You” by Yvonne Lamerich and Ian Carr-Harris.

WHYPA Participants at Writing to You/ Photo by Bali Singh

“Writing To You” was inspired by the millions of letters that are sent between soldiers at war to their loved ones overseas. This particular piece highlights letters between a husband and wife. At one end of the park sits a letter written by the wife on top of a military trunk, and on the other end is an oversized table, on top of which is a World Atlas and a letter from the husband. Both the trunk and table have been cast in bronze and hold a dark feeling of nostalgia, as Neudis pointed out. The two pieces are also lit and supposedly the text is illuminated from behind. The beauty of this piece, installed through the City of Vancouver’s Public Art Program, was well appreciated by all. We discussed the importance of letter writing in those days and how quickly we have moved from post to e-mail. With letter writing, people were forced to think deeply about how their writing affected others and about how they themselves were truly feeling at that point in time, making it a more personal form of communication. E-mail nowadays, however, allows us to blast words off into cyberspace without really feeling the consequences.

WHYPA Participants at The Terry Fox Memorial/ Photo by Bali Singh

Next, we moved to the foot of Robson Street where a big arch stands right in front of BC Place. The Terry Fox Memorial, by architect Franklin Allen and artist Ian Bateson, was erected in 1984 by the City of Vancouver’s Public Art Program and according to feedback seemed to be a disappointment to most who lived in the vicinity. They had expected a Terry Fox memorial but instead received a seemingly Oriental-inspired arch and a 2-D Terry Fox stuck inside the arch. The Public Art Program’s write-up on the memorial expresses it differently, describing it as “a postmodern interpretation of the triumphal arches of Rome.” The installation has weathered over time and although Terry remains well preserved, the outside of the arch is dirty and shabby looking.

Fulcrum of Vision / Photo by Bali Singh

“Fulcrum of Vision” was next by Mowry Baden. Similar to “Writing to You”, this installment is comprised of two pieces: the first is a bright green upright lilypad with a red seat that protrudes out the side, almost looking like a tongue; the second looks like a misshapen aluminum soccer ball with a seat coming out the side as well as two rows of seats that border one side of the piece. Catherine encouraged us to explore the two pieces by sitting on the seats. After we had finished discovering all the different methods of sitting by the pieces Catherine read out the Public Art Program’s description. Mowry Baden intended to force people to examine the art a certain way: up close and personal. This way, he was able to obstruct a part of people’s vision and only give them one way at looking at things. Some Walking Home participants remarked that before they had not understood the piece but they liked it much better after Catherine had read the description. Me, on the other hand, being the art critic I am, simply did not like the piece (sorry Mowry Baden!). Maybe it was the way it was so blatantly placed in front of you, or the fact that the pieces did not seem to work together, or the slight headache I got after sitting a foot away from a big ball of deformed aluminum, but Fulcrum of Vision was not my cup of tea.

Photo by Bali Singh

Uncoverings/ Photo by Laurie Dawson

On our way to the CBC plaza, we examined “Uncoverings” by Jill Anholt and Susan Ockwell. These sidewalk reliefs are dispersed throughout downtown Vancouver; they look like manhole covers with punctured holes and work with the city’s hot water system.Not only do they have a very practical use, but there is raised text in the center of each (all saying different things) and they illuminate at night.

Snacking at CBC Plaza/ Photo by Bali Singh

At CBC Plaza, after renourishing ourselves with the wonderful snacks Catherine always prepares, Barbara Cole, of Cole Projects and Other Sight’s for Artist’s Projects spoke to us. An artist herself, she has taught at Emily Carr for 17 years (including teaching some of our fellow Walking Home participants). She became interested and involved in public art and got to know Bryan Newson, Public Art Program Manager, for she was on the board of the City of Vancouver Public Art Program. A big part of her job is taking unused city space and installing art pieces there after negotiations with the city, other businesses, and the artist. Last Chance is one of Other Sight’s for Artist’s Projects more recent installations, having been installed in April 2010. Eric Deis’ photograph stands in one of the city’s previously unused spaces. CBC had a wall space that they were going to sell to Concord Pacific, the neighbouring buildling, but Concord Pacific did not have enough money so the space was sold to JJ Bean (JJ Bean has a moveable coffee pavilion in CBC Plaza). Barbara Cole then negotiated with JJ Bean and together they have initiated The Wall, an artist’s exhibit space where artists can temporarily place their work.

Eric Deis’ Last Chance/ Photo by Laurie Dawson

Eric Deis’ photograph depicts a small residential house amidst commercial space including businesses and a towering apartment building in the background. A tall cedar tree stands beside the house and on the other side is a sign that says “LAST CHANCE FOR PRECONSTRUCTION PRICING”. The photograph portrays a long battle between the owner of the small house to keep her property away from the hands of commercial realtors. Unfortunately, we were told that this woman, who had managed to stand firmly on her property for 45 years, was finally forced to let go of it as financial struggles to maintain her house proved too heavy a burden. She has many unique projects on the go and we were astounded that she could keep up her involvement with the City of Vancouver public Art Program, run two of her own organizations, teach at Emily Carr, and be a mother.

Curated works by Barbara Cole/ Photo by Laurie Dawson

One of her current installments is in the Olympic Village where two artists, Folke Köbberling and Martin Kaltwasser, have taken the wheatboard that was used in the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Athlete’s Village to build a sculpture, but this sculpture’s life does not end there. This wheatboard, which is made of corn, will decompose, so the artists have invited South East False Creek residents to plant plants so that after the wheat board has disintegrated, the residents will have a plant nursery. The plants from this plant nursery will hopefully then be replanted in different areas. The time Barbara took to speak with us was greatly valued and was a perfect way to wrap up a sunny day in Downtown Vancouver.

-Justine Lee

Köbberling & Kaltwasser, The Games are Open (photo credit: Other Sights)

Click below to hear Artist & Curator Barbara Cole talk about some interesting public art happening in Vancouver:

Click the ear below or the gray button directly above to hear Walking Home Projects Director Catherine Pulkinghorn speak about letter writing at Yvonne Lammerich & Ian Carr Harris’ public art piece: Writing to You:

Walking Home Projects Director Catherine Pulkinghorn talking about letter writing at public art piece Writing to You by Yvonne Lammerich and Ian Carr-Harris (photo credit: Bali Singh)