by Stevie Wilson | In the wake of Vancouver council’s recent protest against the ridiculously bright advertisements adorning BC Place, I’d like to make mention of the Museum Of Vancouver’s fantastic exhibit highlighting Vancouver’s ‘complicated’ relationship with lit signage. Neon Vancouver/Ugly Vancouver is a compelling yet informative display featuring an extensive collection of Vancouver’s neon patronage. Since its opening last October, it’s been a popular spot for those looking to take a peek into the bright sights that once permeated the shadows of our greyest, dampest streets. Curated by Joan Sidle (who is conveniently hosting a Curator’s Talk & Tour this Feb 2nd), the exhibit is a great way to get in touch with some of our city’s coolest (and most controversial) heritage.
In recent years there has been considerable effort on behalf of the city and private investors to protect and revitalize many of Vancouver’s neon landmarks. While the exhibit includes much signage that most of us are too young to remember, the team at MOV have created an intriguing retrospective that appeals to a wide variety of heritage-savvy individuals (you don’t really have to care about history to enjoy staring at colourful lights).
With the restoration of iconic city sites like The Only and Save On Meats (to name just a couple), I think we as citizens have proven our aptitude for nostalgia. These sites and signs are a welcome piece of retro-Vancouver kitsch for residents looking to re-live a past they never got to experience, or to repurpose old memories into new ones. All across our city are re-inventions of the past that cater to a growing taste for trendy, accessible “heritage”. Even if the neon signs on display at MOV aren’t attached to your favorite spot for a cheap pork sandwich anymore, the statements they make against the black backdrop of the exhibit are indicative of what they truly are: pieces of art. Presented simply and without novelty, these artifacts are original pieces of Vancouver’s commercial and community past, and many of them have amazing stories to tell (seeing D.O.A playing the Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret probably isn’t the ‘history’ your grandpa remembers).
Neon wasn’t just a staple of Chinatown or Hastings Street – the exhibit features signs from all over the city (which once boasted over 19,000 of them), with additional displays incorporating other characteristics of past decades. Think retro cars, kitchens, clothes, and more. The exhibit – if you haven’t already soaked it up – runs until August 2012. That’s plenty of time for you to work up the courage to ask your friends to go to the museum with you.
Images courtesy of the Museum of Vancouver and Walter Griba.
Stevie Wilson is an historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she’s decided to branch out with a cryptic agenda: encouraging the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with You Should Know, a Scout column that aims to show you the things that you already see. Just nod your head and pretend you’re paying attention.
Hey, Museum of Vancouver! In Portland, your colleagues have partnered up with local artists to provide the public with free tattoos. Maybe get in on that is all we’re trying to say. Thanks.
We’re giving away a double pass to the 4th Annual “Interesting Vancouver” talk going down at the Museum of Vancouver on Friday, October 14th. Stay close to our Facebook page this evening for the swag. Interesting speakers from all walks of life will be telling cool stories (on beer, the urban myths surrounding sneakers hanging from power lines, the art and significance of tattoos, etc.). Since it’s a MOV gig, we trust it’s been curated to be engaging…
“The idea behind Interesting Vancouver is that by avoiding any specific theme (other than things that are interesting), the evening centres instead on the creativity, ideas and locally-sourced knowledge sharing for and by Vancouverites from a variety of walks and disciplines. Anyone with an open mind who enjoys surprise and delight will enjoy this unique event,” say organizers. The Interesting Vancouver 2011 will bring carefully curated speakers to fill the schedule from a person prevailing from a terminal illness to someone building their own plane to urban myths of shoes dangling from power lines plus much more.
Sounds like a good launch pad for a different Friday night out, no? For more information and ticket sales (there can be only one SWAG winner, I’m afraid), check out www.interestingvancouver.com and for information on Museum of Vancouver programs head over to www.museumofvancouver.ca.
The talk will be led by The Tyee editor and all around cool cat David Beers, and with me on the panel are Colleen Kimmitt, who writes about local sustainable issues for The Tyee; my friend Barbara-Jo McKintosh of Books To Cooks; and Timothy Taylor, best-selling author of Stanley Park.
“As the night unfolds, other special guests — including Karri Schuerman of Chambar and blogger Melody Fury — will read morsels of their favourite food writing, and audience members will be invited to join in on the conversation. Where is food writing headed? Help us draw up that menu of possibilities.”
The Food and Beers series is part of the The Museum of Vancouver fall exhibit, Home Grown: Local Sustainable Food, co-presented by FarmFolk/CityFolk. The Museum of Vancouver’s Food and Beers events are sponsored by the Tides Canada Foundation.
Tickets are $15, which includes nibbles and entry into the museum’s cool Homegrown exhibit as well. For tickets, click here
Spring is here. It’s time to clean out and splash a bit of paint around. Get creative. If you’re needing some jump-start inspiration, consider the following cool local events sure to leave you itching for art supplies. Read more