June 29th, 2010 Welcome to Yaletown!

Walking Home Yaletown Public Art  June 292010  – Our First Session – by Samantha Knopp



WHYPA June 29th, 2010 / Day 1, Where All of us Became Family; Photo by Hiiro Prince

The first session of Walking Home Yaletown Public Art started at Yaletown’s Immigration Services Society, where participants were eager to hear what exactly they’d gotten themselves into. Looking around the room, I was excited to see so many equally ambitious young people who had all decided that exploring Vancouver’s public art scene was a much better way to spend their hot summer days than exploring the beaches. I guess by ambitious, I must have meant crazy!

As introductions got underway, it quickly became clear that interests and backgrounds were wide and varied; participants ranged in age from 16-25 and their knowledge of public art and the city of Vancouver was anywhere from near-expert to beginner. As a third year student in Fine Arts at Emily Carr, I was very excited by this mix because of the opportunity it affords to discuss art with both fellow art students and those with different backgrounds.

Catherine Pulkinghorn, the director of this adventure, quickly explained what the project entailed. Walking Home Yaletown Public Art is a collaborative art education project in which the group walks through the city together in order to learn about Vancouver’s public art experientially. The project is not a passive guided tour.  Instead, it is a stage for “youth empowerment” in which all participants are required to actively engage with one another and with the artwork to create meaning, both as individuals and as a group. This process will be audio recorded by Laurie Dawson, a freelance broadcaster, who will be accompanying us and sharing her broadcasting expertise.

WHYPA June 29th, 2010/George Wainborn Park; Photo by Neudis Abreu

After these formal introductions Catherine got us outside to begin our journey.  We headed towards the waterfront along Seymour Street to George Wainborn Park and were asked to take in our surroundings by engaging in a…landmark scavenger hunt! Some of us had never been to this part of the city which made the task quite challenging. This struggle was certainly understandable given that even those of us who had frequented the neighbourhood found ourselves having to actively search for some of the items on the list.  Once this task was complete, we gathered around our first piece of public art, Khenko, by Douglas R. Taylor.

WHYPA June 29th, 2010/Khenko signage; Photo by Laura Lam

Khenko is a large wire wind sculpture of a Great Blue Heron that through the use of windmills slowly flaps its wings. Catherine explained that this sculpture seemed a perfect introduction to the context of our setting as it reflected the shift in environment from False Creek’s 100 years of industrial activities – when pollution devastated the area to such an extent that vegetation or wildlife could not be supported – to its current beautifully developed park spaces. The sculpture is a symbol of hope and restoration, as the birds and wildlife are just now slowly but surely returning. This bit of history definitely came as a shock to most of us who have only ever known False Creek as a beautiful stretch of the seawall.

WHYPA June 29th, 2010/ Khenko by artist Doug Taylor; Photo by Neudis Abreu

As we moved on, our discussion shifted to the buildings that surrounded us and the urban planning that had contributed to the public space we were enjoying. This area remains one of the largest urban redevelopment projects in recent North American history[1]. It was transformed following Expo 86, when the province controversially sold the large strip of waterfront to Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing[2]. A primary shareholder of the Canadian residential development company, “Concord Pacific,” this company was used by the city to develop the area into the vision of a high density waterfront community.

WHYPA June 29th, 2010/ Ammenities; Photo by Neudis Abreu

When it came to light that part of the agreement between the city and Concord Pacific was that a portion of the their budget and land had to be dedicated to developing public amenities like parks, schools and public art, many of us were again surprised, as Yaletown is often perceived as existing only for Vancouver’s “elite.” It was quite exciting to then learn that an area I had perceived as private, in fact has an abundance of public space that was available for my enjoyment! As we wrapped up our first day in David Lam Park I was excited by this shift in my perception and in our group’s dynamic, and looked forward to our next session of sharing and experiencing Vancouver together.

-Sam Knopp

WHYPA June 29th, 2010/ David Lam Park/ Photo by Laura Lam

[1] http://newcity.ca/Pages/false_creek_trail.pdf


[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concord_Pacific_Developments

June 29th: Our First Meeting by Laura Lam

WHYPA June 29th, 2010/ Artist Ikbal Singh presents; Photo by Laurie Dawson

Stepping out onto the streets of Yaletown, we were uncertain at first what the Walking Home Yaletown Public Art (WHYPA) project would be like. After using Google Map the previous evening to find where 530 Drake Street is in Yaletown, we got to meet our fellow volunteers at ISS (Immigrant Services Society). Upon meeting Catherine, our context-loving and intellectual teacher at the entrance, we were directed up to a room on the first floor where we had the chance to meet the rest of the group. Handshakes, polite greetings and welcoming smiles awaited each participant at the entrance. We were introduced to Laurie Dawson, a freelance broadcaster and she eagerly showed us her skills and gadgets for audio recording. Next, we got to meet our photographer Bali Singh.

WHYPA June 29th, 2010/ Artist Ikbal Singh presents; Photo by Laurie Dawson

Bali’s presentation was quite remarkable and definitely inspired some of us sitting there listening attentively to her story. She told us of her decision to give up her job in order to pursue arts at Emily Carr University. We were intrigued by her stories about her ongoing projects, including her blogs. She also informed us of her work during the Winter Olympics and how art could be use to send out a message. However, our time with Bali was short because that very evening, she had to catch a flight to Montreal for an art festival. After bidding farewell to Bali and last minute munching on snacks, we were ready to do some walking.

WHYPA June 29th, 2010/George Wainborn Park sign; Photo by Laura Lam

Walking down to Richards Street, we reached George Wainborn Park and our first task was… a scavenger hunt! We had to find two bridges, a school, a factory, yellow chairs, swings, two cranes and a heron, blue ferries and rainbow buses.

WHYPA June 29th, 2010/ Yellow Chairs; Photo by Claudia Chan

We also observed some cement blocks that we were not sure if they were public art or lamps. This led us to the question- what are the standards to distinguish whether something is meant to be infrastructure or public art? This was an interesting discussion indeed. Sitting beneath the heron, an eye-catching piece of public art, Catherine told us the story of the heron returning to False Creek.

Figure 10 WHYPA June 29th, 2010/ Khenko by artist Doug Taylor; Photo by Tiffany Choi

For some of us, it was shocking to know that just 40 years ago in the 1970s, False Creek was an industrial area filled with pollution and virtually all wildlife was nonexistent. This public art piece is a reminder for the public of how precious wildlife is and that the return of the heron is significant. While we were discussing this, fellow participant Neudis pointed out the flashy, colourful screen across from where we were sitting. It turns out that this new public art addition was installed during the Olympics. A camera was placed underneath an Aquabus and what the camera captures under the water is reproduced onto the screen. It just comes to show how much public art surrounds us but we often do not pay enough attention to notice it.

WHYPA June 29th, 2010/ Surface by Fiona Bowie; Photo by Laura Lam

As we headed back to ISS, we walked along the waterfront. Catherine wanted us to make some observations of our own so we paid attention to our surroundings!

WHYPA June 29th, 2010/ Waiting for Low Tide by Don Vaughan; Photo by Laura Lam

Special attention was drawn to the million-dollar dock in David Lam Park that was constructed during the Olympics but wasn’t used to its whole advantage. We also came across the last structure created by famous Canadian architect Arthur Erickson, the residential building named “The Erickson”. Strolling down by David Lam Park with the roaring wind tailing right behind us, it was starting to get a bit chilly. Luckily, our destination was not far and even though our feet were tired and our ears ringing from the wind, we all made it back to ISS.

WHYPA June 29th, 2010/The Erickson; Photo by Laura Lam

Even with sore feet and windy weather, our hearts and minds were pounding strong from all the information we gathered on our first day. We were all excited for more!

-Laura Lam

WHYPA June 29th, 2010/ Opus Notebook; Photo by Claudia Chan

From the WHYPA podcast series here is artist Ikbal (Bali) Singh presenting to project participants at ISS of BC on June 29th, 2010.

Click below to hear artist & WHYPA Photographer Ikbal Singh introduce herself on the first day of the program: