July 8th, 2010 Now this is a walk – Bryan Newson and Yaletown public art



Walking Home Yaletown Public Art  July 82010  – North False Creek with Bryan Newson

By Samantha Knopp

Today marked another amazing session of Walking Home Projects Yaletown Public Art! Bryan Newson, the city of Vancouver’s Public Art Program Manager, was present to give us a guided interpretive tour of North False Creek’s public art. Newson is in charge of selecting, approving and implementing public art throughout the city, so it was very exciting to have his first-hand knowledge of the city’s public artwork at our disposal. It was also an exciting day because it finally felt like summer in Vancouver! The temperature was a delicious twenty-eight degrees, a perfect day to spend outside exploring and our group definitely took advantage.

Walking to Coopers Park Photo by Laura Lam

Our session started in the sweet shade of a large tree at Cooper’s Park, where we met Bryan Newson and a guest, Helen Aqua, from the Immigration Services Society who was joining our group for the day. Bryan started by explaining the history of public art in Vancouver and the city’s Cultural Services Public Art Program. Apparently, prior to Expo 86’, public art in Vancouver was very limited in scope and there was no official program set up to curate it. It was only after the Expo – when participating countries wanted to leave large artworks they had brought in as part of their pavilions – that the city decided it needed to develop a program and criteria for accepting and promoting public art. This was to ensure that the city’s public spaces were protected and preserved from artworks that may not merit long-term placement. Perhaps more importantly, the city also decided to take a more proactive stance on accumulating public art; rather than simply accepting donations, they would also begin commissioning and programming work specifically for Vancouver. Although I already had some idea of the importance of Expo 86 before today’s session – large developments like the Skytrain, Science World, BC Place Stadium and the Plaza of Nations are all still a big part of Vancouver today – I was unaware of the extent the event shaped our city in the area of public art.

Time Top Project by Jerry Pethick Photo by WHYPA Participant Laura Lam

After this historical introduction, our busy afternoon of walking was underway.  In total, we looked at twelve pieces: Time Top by Jerry Pethick, an untitled fountain by Al McWilliams, The Copper Mews by Alan Storey, Lookout by Noel Best & Chris Dikeakos, Street Light by Bernie Miller & Alan Tregebov, Welcome to the Land of Light by Henry Tsang, Glass Umbrellas by Don Vaughan, Brush with Illumination by Buster Simpson, Collection by Mark Lewis, Footnotes by Gwen Boyle, Password by Alan Storey, and Terra Nova by Richard Prince. It was a busy afternoon to say the least!

The Coopers Mews Photo by Program Director Catherine Pulkinghorn

I honestly feel like I could write a few pages on each piece thanks to all of the information and insight Bryan shared combined with the reactions and comments from my peers, but for the sake of space, I will only talk about one of the works we looked at, which was of particular interest to me, “The Copper Mews” by Alan Storey. This work was immediately appealing to our group who all enjoyed the highly interactive quality of the piece. It consists of a meandering path that transforms from trail to rail to boardwalk, above which there are five wooden barrels in honour of the cooperage that once stood in its place. When one steps onto the boardwalk planks the barrels emit steam and a different musical note for each plank. Bryan explained to us how noise concerns were a large obstacle in bringing the piece to realization and that Alan Storey was forced to compromise on the level of sound emitted from the work. This was a helpful reminder that public art involves many stakeholders and that negotiation is an important part of the process. I really enjoyed this piece because of the large response it created in our group. I also feel it successfully evokes a sense of history while activating public space with sculpture in a fun unobtrusive way.

Our day ended at the Roundhouse, but I’ll admit I left the group early because the weather had the beach calling my name! Actually, I headed to Vanier Park to take part Mountain Equipment Co-op’s $5 Kayaking clinic, which I had learned about from Catherine during our Canada Day walking session. In addition to learning so much about Vancouver and its public art, the program has been an amazing resource for exchanging our own experiences of the city. That unexpected benefit has been truly wonderful, as it provides all of us with many suggestions on new ways to experience and walk through Vancouver.

-Sam Knopp

July 8th, 2010  Session Review

by Helen Aqua

It was really just a comment made on a whim to Catherine’s email request for me to cancel the project’s indoor room booking – “hey,” I said, “since you’re not going to be holding your session in the ISSofBC Drake Street office because the weather is so great, how about if I come too??”  And then I wrote “just kidding, of course!”

But Catherine immediately shot a reply back to me – “Yes, do come – take some time out of the office – we’d love to have you join us!”

So I thought, okay.  Why just do all the administrative stuff for the Walking Home Yaletown Public Art Project, why not find out what it’s all about – first hand.

So on Thursday afternoon, July 8th, I joined the group at the park under the Cambie Street bridge.  Lucky me! The guest speaker that afternoon was Bryan Newson, Manager of the City of Vancouver’s public art program and because it was such a gorgeous Vancouver summer afternoon, instead of showing the group slides (oops, I’m dating myself!) I meant, of course, a PowerPoint presentation, we got to visit the actual artwork and find out how it got placed, what it meant (to the area it was placed in, or if quite abstract, just simply what it represented).  Let me digress a bit: I was born in Vancouver and so were my parents – and I have grandchildren, so presumably I know the city inside and out.  But, no, the changes to this area since Expo 86 was held here seemed to me to just be all the old warehouses being replaced with a multitude of tall highrises.  When I take the Skytrain and it leaves the Main Street station headed west, I can still envision the Expo site when it was so exciting!! But do I come down to this area for a walk? Or for any reason? No, I’m a typical Vancouverite who never strays from the known (my neighborhood) to the unknown (parts of the city I just never have a reason to go to).

To begin, Bryan explained all the work involved when many of the countries participating at Expo 86 decided that they’d rather not take all their exhibits back to their home countries, but instead wanted to donate them to the city.  Bryan explained that he was a pretty new employee then and was given the “short term” chore of figuring out what to do with the proposed donations (not all of them were accepted).  Now, some 25 years later, the short term secondment became a busy City of Vancouver department charged with ensuring that public art was part of our landscape.  Some of it is paid for by the city, some by developers; some stays where it was placed “forever” and some have short tenures.

fountain by artist Al McWilliams Photo by Program Director Catherine Pulkinghorn

fountain by Al McWilliams Photo by Program Director Catherine Pulkinghorn

Having Bryan as our tour guide was incredible! He had wonderful stories to tell and pointed out things we’d never have found out had we been sauntering along the seawall on our own. And the art is actually everywhere, not just on the seawall.  There’s a walkway that makes musical sounds, a deceptive looking pool with a sculpture in the middle that when viewed from the apartments above, is a flower. There’s a structure at the foot of Davie Street designed to change according to the time of day. There was poetry on a sidewalk, a webcam (unfortunately not working at the moment) and numerous other items positioned where ever we went – you just need to keep your eyes open and your awareness alert.

Following the wonderful afternoon, I was definitely inspired to check the city of Vancouver’s website about the public art program and to make plans to bring friends & family for a walk along the seawall to show them what I had seen and do my best to expound on the extra stories that Bryan had told us.

Catherine and program participants – thank you for letting me join you – imagine what I might have missed!

Helen Aqua, Departmental Coordinator ISSofBC Settlement Office

Photo by WHYPA Participant Laura Lam

A blog post about walking from WHYPA Participant Jennifer Sarkar:

Terra Nova by Richard Prince/ Photo by WHYPA Participant Jennifer Sarkar

I thought about the walk which I did last Thursday. I was having a small conversation about my final project with Catherine and we came across how our body reacts when we walk, and she told me it will be a good idea to write about it. So, here we go. I am not sure how others feel about walking but with me this summer -every Thursday afternoon till almost evening- I walk which is for me pretty unusual. I thought about it through this weekend how my body reacts when I am walking while listening and thinking about the conversation we just had about the A-maze-ing Laughter.

This is what I felt my body and mind was doing during that time: I was calm, my body didn’t feel stressed (this happened in the past when I forced myself to walk), I was actually listening, which is sometimes hard for me I can’t do two complicated things together however, eating and watching TV works with me. My brain felt positive and fresh soaking in new and interesting information about installing a public piece.

Reasons I think Walking, Thinking, Learning and Sharing working for me:
Everytime I walked with everyone it was near seawall or water, the weather was nice and fresh, shades here and there, I tend to take very short breaks if I have to. I take two steps back, wear sun glasses, I cover myself very well (I need to) eat and drink a lot before hand and hydrate myself very well.

Again, I am talking about my personal experience. If it is not working for your body it gives you signals so, please follow them during the walk.

Stay healthy and laugh once in a while.

Jennifer Sarkar

Bryan Newson talking at Alan Storey’s The Coopers Mews (photo credit: unknown)

Click below to hear City of Vancouver’s Public Art Program Manager, Bryan Newson talk about how the Public Art Program came to be and about Alan Storey’s The Coopers Mews: