The first annual STICK art show is scheduled to take place from March 14 – 28th at the Red Gate Arts Society. This benchmark event will showcase some of the city’s most radical “anonymous” artists that are currently wheatpasting around Vancouver.
The show kicks off with an opening party on March 14th at 8pm. It will then be open to the public weekday evenings from 6:30pm to 9:30pm and from 12pm to 4pm on the weekends. (You can get more details on the event page here.) Read on a personal account of the local wheatpaste culture and the culmination of STICK from one of its organizers, WKNDSnack…
How did you get turned on to wheatpaste art and what inspired you to pick up the medium?
I moved to Vancouver a few years ago from a much smaller place. I immediately started noticing how much cool street art Vancouver had. Over the next few years I became aware of @mwbowen_artist and @sasquatch_army as local artists and started to follow more closely. One day, after stumbling across an artist (@gr6g_) putting a piece up, I realized how simple it would be to do. Shortly after, I scanned a painting I had made, printed it off and started gluing copies up around the city.
How did you choose your tag name (WKNDSnack) or identity? What is its significance?
Some artists use variations of their names, like Olgairesse (@olgairesse) and MW Bowen. WKNDSnack is just indicative of the fact that I mostly paint food and tend to paste on weekends. Rumour has it that Sasquatch Army is, in fact, a literal army of sasquatches that anyone may be conscripted into at a moment’s notice (what else can account for the sheer volume of their pieces up around the city?)
What inspired Stick? Why is now the right time for the Stick art show?
MW Bowen and I were inspired to put Stick together after we both put pieces on the side of an abandoned building. Three weeks later the building was torn down and has been an empty lot ever since. We met for coffee and decided it would be interesting to see if a gallery would host a show about street artists. After reaching out to a number of other artists and talking through what we wanted the show to be, we had a concept to start planning and promoting. The Red Gate Arts Society is an amazing community organization and they were really interested in hosting us. Who knows if it’s “the right,” time for a show like this, but we hope that it gets people talking and doing it themselves before summertime, when it’s best to get out and start pasting. Maybe this summer will be the one where everyone all of a sudden starts doing street art!
Considering the transient nature of the wheatpaste medium, how can its artists make a lasting impression? What sort of impact or awareness raising do you hope that Stick will make?
That’s one of the nice things about social media and photography. Those things can last much longer than glue and paper. Ultimately, the lasting impression we hope to make is one where people are talking about the medium and the nature of street art in the city. Hopefully, we inspire others to start participating and making their own. We’re going to be hosting “learn to past,” sessions on March 16th and 23rd, starting at Noon at Red Gate. People can bring their own art on standard paper and we’ll go around the neighbourhood showing people some tips and tricks for putting up their work. Olgairesse is going to be hosting children’s activities on March 17th and 24th from 1 – 4pm, so that art loving parents can bring their kids out to visit the gallery too. For the show we’ve also made a zine about street art in Vancouver that can be picked up at Lucky’s Books & Comics or at the show itself.
Your artistic endeavours are generally very short-lived…what sort of reward do you get out of wheatpasting?
The short-lived nature is a part of it. It’s fun to do something that people can’t own, that belongs to a person experiencing it in the moment. It’s definitely a point of pride to see your work up for a long period of time. That takes an understanding of making the best glue, finding a great spot, and actually putting it up. Otherwise, it’s really the moments where someone sees a piece, wonders where it came from and smiles, or chuckles to themselves. Obviously, we aren’t present for those moments, but I’ve felt that and it’s a sort of subtle nod that, in a city that’s so manicured, the people who live here can still interact in these small subversive ways (even if it’s just a definition sticker, pie, or sasquatch).
Wheatpasting is a kind of taboo or elicit form of artistic expression where preserving anonymity, to some extent, is essential. Being an artist of any sort in Vancouver is difficult but I imagine that this must be an especially isolating experience…How has this affected the possibility of networking and creating a community?
Very much so. The City definitely sees spray painted graffiti as vandalism and having a negative impact on the city. Wheatpasting can be subject to postering laws, but it exists in a grey area of the law, because it can be removed easily. The unsanctioned nature of street art is part of the appeal of the medium. It’s the fact that the city isn’t just the government that manages it, but also the people who live there. It is important though, that while a person can paste anything, hate speech is something the artists in this show do not think is acceptable.
You sort of see other artists work on the street, or on Instagram, but other than throwing a like on one of their posts you don’t necessarily interact. The anonymity point is an interesting one, because you have no context for who, or why someone pastes something up other than what you’re seeing. To some extent I think that’s a good thing, because, what it means is that your work speaks for itself, regardless of gender, or race. That may not be for everyone, but it’s an option.
What has been your personal experience with community and networking, so far?
It’s been really good. Most of the networking has happened from Instagram, both in following people’s work and for reaching out to each other. Most of the people I’ve interacted with are really wonderful, but it’s taken a lot of effort to meet and work with people. It feels like that might be the embodiment of the alienation people sometimes feel livening in cities, or it could just be that meeting strangers on the internet is a (warranted) barrier. Either way, we hope the free Stick, opening party is a place where people can have these discussions.
How, if possible, can public art lovers show their support to wheatpaste artists?
At the base level, just look around the city. You’ll find things in places you wouldn’t expect. The next step is to take photos and share. You may find some of the great artists who are operating in the city.
Is Vancouver’s notorious reputation for razing and rebuilding responsible for its wheatpaste culture? How do other cities compare with Vancouver?
It’s definitely a city in flux. Empty buildings don’t last very long and that means lots of wooden walls around construction sites. Those aren’t usually the best places to place things as they get scraped off or painted over immediately. If anything, it’s probably more difficult for the medium.
What words of advice do you have to people seeking to be a part of the community?
Start pasting. Get your art out there. Follow people on Instagram that you enjoy and be open to collaboration. Support other artists and their work and lastly, don’t be a creep.