a poetry of place that defines Vancouver

. . . a poetry of place that defines Vancouver

is a phrase taken from a talk on Public Art organized by CARFAC BC at the Vancouver Public Library downtown (April 9 2014). Karen Henry, the Public Art Planner of Cultural Services for the City of Vancouver had these words on her power point presentation. The phrase refers to or was a definition of public art–this is from memory so I may be slightly off here.

This was a stimulating talk. It was great to hear from Richard Tetrault, visual artist and muralist, who has worked with several local communities on mural projects.  Also, Elisa Yon, the Public Art Project Coordinator from the City of Richmond was there and Cameron Cartiere, the Dean of Graduate Studies of Emily Carr. Each talked about different projects. Henry and Yon somewhat demystified the process/bureaucracy behind city projects.

Here are a few interesting things that I was able to capture in my notes:

  • There is a difference between a studio practice and a public practice; with a public practice you have to ask yourself “what do you want the work to do?” (Cartiere) (I’m thinking wouldn’t you ask yourself that question with a studio practice too?)
  • What is the difference between public art and community art? (from the audience I think)
  • How do you make the general public more interested in public art? How do you make them care? (from the audience)
  • There is a power to seeing public art in places you don’t expect to see it. (Tetrault)

Elisa Yon talked about how some public art is very short-lived, so it needs to be documented. This can include stills, video, talks, and tours. Also, at the talk there were some great pamphlets on individual works produced by the City of Vancouver.


Pamphlets with information on the works and the artist. The pamphlets open up into small posters of the work. Published by the City of Vancouver Public Art Program.

Someone from the audience remarked that some public art seems to be way more popular than other work. For example, the laughing statues at English Bay. This is the work of Yue Minjun from China titled A-maze-ing Laughter (a project that came out of 2009-2011 Vancouver Biennale). Although the large bronze sculptures are still, they are very successful in engaging the public (as you’ll see in the picture through the link above). The audience member had said that people take selfies of themselves with the art while other public art does not get anything close to this reaction. This work had social media engagement. It was unclear what point he was trying to make. It sounded like he was saying that some public art is more successful because people want to photograph it with themselves in it. Argh! I think some work, figurative/representational, is easier to relate to when you don’t have an arts background or an inquiring mind or are not used to looking at art.

Anyway, you may want to check out one of the artworks Elisa Yon talked about was Nicole Dextras, StoreFront: objects of desire. You can see a video of this performance public art work.