YEAR IN REVIEW: The Arts in North and West Van
1. Master carver leaves his mark
Xwalacktun didn’t predict he would become a great carver when he first took classes at 12 years old, but years later he is a master of Coast Salish art.
Born Rick Harry, he was given his indigenous name by his father, Pekultn, who was a hereditary chief from the Seymour Creek-area.
This summer, he put on a live demonstration at the Harmony Arts Festival in West Vancouver. Using razor-sharp tools, he carefully carved a talking stick he would give away at a wedding in August. The talking stick will be passed between the married couple to give each a chance to express his and her feelings.
Also this year, Xwalacktun carved an intricate door for the newly built Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art on Lonsdale Avenue.
2. Gordon Smith Gallery opens
Supported by some of B.C.’s most forward-thinking artists, the Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art opened this October.
Pieces in the gallery on Lonsdale Avenue in North Vancouver are used to teach children about design and art history.
Calling itself “the first gallery in the country dedicated to young audiences,” the Gordon Smith Gallery has work by Maritime painter David Blackwood, photos by Ontario landscape artist Edward Burtynsky and a sculpture by the North Shore’s own Douglas Coupland.
“We’re different from the Vancouver Art Gallery who just try to stay on the cutting edge,” program facilitator Daylen Luchsinger told The Outlook. “We do that too while trying to cater to the K-12 age group.”
3. Healing through art
It took expressionist artist Leef Evans hours to prepare to chat with The Outlook about his exhibit at the Seymour Art Gallery in North Vancouver.
He has depression, a debilitating mental illness that makes just about everything in life more difficult, including painting.
Quitting university and eventually living homeless in the Downtown Eastside, Evans, whose real name is Eric Howler, found escape in art.
He began taking painting classes through Coast Mental Health seven years ago, a decision he says saved his life.
“I don’t know where I’d be today if it wasn’t for art,” he told The Outlook.
Evans hasn’t suffered a major attack of depression since he started painting, although he takes life one day at a time.
4. New Design Gallery
Bringing back fond memories from the past, the West Vancouver Museum put on a show this summer highlighting paintings and sculptures once displayed at the New Design Gallery.
Launched in 1955, the gallery on the 1400-block of Marine Drive was one of the first in Canada to showcase modern art, which was just emerging on the arts scene in B.C.
At the time, contemporary art was anything but popular among “stuffy” Vancouverites who preferred traditional landscapes over abstract deigns. The New Design Gallery helped launch the careers of new North Shore artists, including Bill Koochin (pictured) who still lives in West Van.
As modern art became more popular, the revolutionary gallery moved downtown to West Pender Street, where it merged with the newly formed Arts Club.
5. Anonymous Art Show
At the eighth annual Anonymous Art Show each painter’s name was kept top-secret until after his or her piece was sold.
“The show puts everyone on the same platform and encourages both emerging and established artists,” said Jo Dunlop, exhibitions coordinator for the North Vancouver Community Arts Council.
Artists were free to paint what they wanted, as long as the work was created on an unframed 8”x8” canvas.
Their name was written on the back, only to be revealed after the painting was purchased, with half the money going to the artist and the other half to the arts council.
6. West Coast Modern home tour
The owners of Montiverdi Estates, an enclave high on the western edge of West Vancouver, consider themselves the keepers of the largest living museum of work by late renowned architect, Arthur Erickson.
They opened their doors to the public for one day in July as part of the West Vancouver Museum’s West Coast Modern home tour.
A concept community built on a singular architectural vision of modernism meets best practices, the estates are home to some of the best examples of Erickson’s architecture. Suitably, the neighbourhood’s original show home, built in 1981, features the architect’s “inside-out aesthetic” trademark that incorporates the outdoors inside.
7. Selwyn Pullan exhibition
Selwyn Pullan’s personality is like the houses he took photos of – direct and to the point, but with something deeper, more complex underneath.
He documented West Coast Modernism, a new kind of architecture that started to appear during the 1950s and ‘60s. Gone were any ornate details without purpose, and in their place popped up post-and-beam construction with sleek lines that showcased the North Shore’s rugged natural setting.
“A good design fits the people who live there and the landscape. Now they fill the whole lot with a building that’s just a building,” Pullan told The Outlook from inside his North Van studio. Pullan stood at the forefront of this new design, taking photos of houses throughout Vancouver for magazines, helping to spread the trend across North America.
8. Rock star
Based on decades of painstaking practice, John Shaver knows exactly how stones will balance before he places one on top of the other. He’s the man behind the rock sculptures that dotted the Ambleside Seawall this summer.
To do his magic, he examines the shape and weight of each rock, looking for indents and textured points that will make his seemingly impossible statues stand strong.
Shaver learned the art form from a “master” in English Bay when he was in elementary school, but only started taking the craft seriously in the last five years.
9. Lynn Canyon Band
By picking up more and more gigs, Lynn Canyon Band is quickly becoming a fixture on the North Shore.
The eclectic four-member group brought together their backgrounds in folk, roots, bluegrass, jazz and blues four years ago.
This September, they added Music in the Park, a show at Capilano River Regional Park, to their list of performances. Their dream venue is the annual Harmony Arts Festival in West Van where they hope to win a spot next summer.
Being accepted is tough but with more exposure and a CD, Lynn Canyon Band will be tough competition.
10. On the Waterfront
Two of the brightest beacons on the North Shore arts scene lent their work to On the Waterfront, an exhibit documenting the hustle-and-bustle of North Vancouver’s port.
At the Cafe for Contemporary Art exhibit this December, Marcus Bowcott and Grace Gordon-Collins explored the connection between the port, shipbuilding and war, including the fear brought on by Sept. 11th.
Their work explored the darker side of “the things we make,” like military equipment and environmentally destructive products.
“There is a terrible beauty to them in a way,” Bowcott told The Outlook, referring to two of his paintings on exhibit; one, a hauntingly looming ship’s hull, the other a fighter jet.