The year in arts
1 Entwined Histories
Maisie Hurley fought on behalf of First Nations people nearly her entire life. Before her death at Lions Gate Hospital in 1964, she was lobbying for an aboriginal museum to be built on the Capilano Reserve.
The money for such a project wasn’t available at the time but more than 45 years later a one-of-a-kind exhibition, Entwined Histories, debuted at the North Vancouver Museum and Archives, encapsulating the spirit of Hurley’s advocacy and the beauty of First Nations art.
All the pieces displayed were from Hurley’s extensive collection of aboriginal art. Sharon Fortney, one of the show’s two curators, told The Outlook the exhibition marked two firsts: The first time the Hurley collection had been on display and the first time the museum explored First Nations art.
“To date, the North Vancouver museum hasn’t really told a diverse story about the people who live in this community,” she said.
“This exhibition speaks to a new direction. We’re trying to be more inclusive and more relevant to the people who live in North Vancouver.”
2 Metal head
North Vancouver-based filmmaker Shenpenn Khymsar has seen a few things in his day. Born in India to exiled Tibetan parents, Khymsar left home after high school to pursue an education in the United States, before moving to Canada permanently.
He landed a suit-and- tie job on Bay Street in Toronto, before realizing he wanted to play music and fight for the freedom of Tibet. He quickly left the 9-to-5 thing behind, grabbed his guitar, came out west and got to work.
To fulfill his desire for advocacy, he completed his first film, Journey of a Dream, this year. The movie follows Khymsar as he returns to India to visit family, his childhood home and play music with local musicians.
The film garnered rave reviews on the festival circuit — premiering as far away as Australia — but Khymsar vows not to rest on his newfound laurels. He has plans for more films, documentaries and features, and to continue his fight to free Tibet.
3 Ross Penhall gives students a look at his studio
Prominent West Vancouver artist Ross Penall temporarily moved his studio into the middle of the old Artists for Kids gallery to give North Van students a glimpse into the artistic process and at work normally reserved for private collections.
More than 50 photographs, drawings, paintings and prints spanning Penhall’s 25-year career adorned the space, along with rough sketches and notes used in the creation of various pieces
In an interview with The Outlook, Penhall said students “usually want to know how long it takes to do a painting” but also praised the show for allowing him to view some of his older work and he was happy with what he saw.
“There is a progression,” he said.
During the month-long show, more than 1,000 students saw the show and spoke with Penhall.
4 Rock at the rink
As frontman for the Canadian rock band Odds, North Vancouver’s Craig Northey is no stranger to crowds.
For the past two years, however, Northey and his band have had to learn to play for Vancouver Canucks hockey fans — a group wholly different from a rock audience.
“Usually we’re kind of ironic, dark humourists, but we’ve discovered irony doesn’t work well in a crowd over 10,000 people,” he said.
“In that vast space you can’t be too busy with anything, so we like to stick to huge riff-rock songs.”
While the set lists Northey and his band treated hockey fans to may not have broken any moulds, his group did use state-of-the-art technology and an in-ear monitoring system to split up and mingle amongst the crowd.
The end result, he said, was a connection between the musicians and fans that simply couldn’t be accomplished with pre-recorded songs.
In regards to a connection with the action on the ice, Northey, a lifelong Canucks fan, considered himself fortunate to have the gig at the arena, albeit one he never envisioned for himself when starting off years ago.
“It’s a fairly bizarre occurrence, but a great combination of our passions,” he says.
“To do something like this you can’t be pretentious. We’re a band that’s made our own albums and worked very hard to make a name for ourselves. A lot of other bands in our position might refuse to play these classic rock riffs but we’re so comfortable at this point in our own skin, that it’s just another opportunity to have a great time.”
5 Comeback Kid
Shane Bunting, better known to music fans as MC Madchild from the Swollen Members, has had a rocky few years. Some time in 2006, he battled a deep addiction to painkillers. He spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and lost homes he’d purchased.
To delve further into drugs, he fled to Kelowna.
This year, he made headlines when he was denied entry into the United States for past affiliations with the Hells Angels. He was upset he couldn’t kick off a long-awaited tour of America with his group, but he didn’t let the refusal at the border get him down.
Bunting emerged in 2011 free of drugs and focused on music. Swollen Members released a new record “Dagger Mouth,” filmed a music video for the first single “Mr. Impossible” in Madchild’s East Vancouver home and won a MC freestyle battle in Toronto.
“I have not been this dedicated in a long time, I just have this crazy smile on my face,” he told The Outlook.
“We just want to make music for ourselves and, you know, do what we do.”
6 Music Man
North Shore musician Roy Forbes celebrated his 40th anniversary in music in 2011 with two shows at the Deep Cove Shaw Theatre in September.
Reflecting on his career, Forbes told The Outlook he never once considered another profession.
“It’s what I wanted to do since I was a kid and I’m still doing it,” he said.
“I’ve never had another job. That’s a lot of trench time. But you have to be in it for the long haul. If you keep that in mind, you’ll be okay.”
Describing his career as just “okay” is a bit of an understatement. Forbes, a veteran of the folk festival circuit and longtime radio host, has recorded albums in Los Angeles, scored documentaries and even written a few tunes for Sesame Street.
Not bad for a guy who grew up Dawson Creek listening to his parent’s country music records and dreaming of being on stage.
7 Collective creation
Growing a grassroots arts scene takes a group of like-minded individuals and a place to congregate. The rest, however, is less material.
This summer, the North Shore saw the beginnings of such a scene develop from the deliberately-mismatched chairs of the Café for Contemporary Art.
“I wanted to create a neighbourhood-based space for contemporary art, where the art wouldn’t be mandated by bureaucratic or market forces,” cafe owner Tyler Russell told The Outlook.
“There are important conversations through art that need to be had but if that community function is beholden to something then you’re going to have a conflict of agendas.”
The neighbourhood space Russell created has attracted filmmaker Mark O’Krafka, who debuted an early cut of his documentary film Tip’s Blues in the cafe’s gallery space, and Ferry Building Gallery employee and artist Dusty Hagerud, who has curated different shows at the venue as well.
West of the Capilano River, the District of West Vancouver is taking its first steps in cultivating a similar scene. AmblesideNow is the large-scale development plan aimed at revitalizing the beachfront community, that former mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones told The Outlook will have an “arts base.”
“All the work is about capturing a small piece of the feeling of the Harmony Arts Festival,” she said.
8 Art show at high-altitude
Grouse Mountain played host to the first-ever Artists for Conservation festival this year, offering visitors an extensive exhibit, lecture series and workshops focused on wildlife and habitat conservation.
Robert Bateman, renowned Canadian artist, was the guest of honour at the festival, where he unveiled a piece created specifically for the event.
In addition to the workshops, lectures and exhibition, the 10-day festival also featured live-painting demonstrations and two film premieres. Artwork from various artists was on sale, partial proceeds of which were donated to a conservation organization of each artist’s choice.
“This is a special opportunity, a chance to meet others and learn,” Jeff Whiting, North Shore sculptor and Artists for Conservation founder, told The Outlook.
“Art typically functions in a fundraising or auction capacity but it can have a much more important role. Art can connect with viewers and re-connect society to the natural world.”
9 In focus
Gordan Dumka’s photos have graced the pages of the New York Times, Vancouver Magazine and Elle, but this year the North Vancouver photographer faced a new creative challenge — establishing his own agency.
This September, Dumka and artists from the fashion, music and video world came together to create The Artists Collective Group.
In an interview with The Outlook, Dumka said he was looking to create a synergy between artists he’s worked with in the past— namely video producer Dave Angelski, house music DJ Mike Bleakley and fashion designers Darryl and Keith Christensen — to offer clients a range of services.
In September, Dumka and his cohorts were already busy working on a video Victoria-based singer Kuba Oms and planning a trip to the globally-recognized Toronto International Film Festival.
“The agency is the big thing these days,” he said.
“Everyone involved had done bigger work but this is a way of organizing all the forces and realizing that we are all good and capable internationally.”
10 Harmony Arts festival
For 10 days each summer, the West Vancouver waterfront comes alive in the spirit of the arts.
The Harmony Arts Festival, which begins around the end of July, featured a host of artist workshops, hand-on demonstrations and lecture in a series dubbed “ArtSpeaks.” This year, more than two dozen artists took part, a record for the festival.
And it isn’t just about visual art. This year’s festival boasted a performing arts stages, a wine garden located at the foot of 15th Street and fabrics and handicrafts from around the world.
“I wanted people to have a chance to get their hands dirty,” said Ruth Payne, visual arts coordinator at the Ferry Building Gallery and the brainchild behind ArtSpeaks.
“People like to look at art, they like to buy art, but they also like to make it. This allows people to become a part of the experience.”