Vancouver, beyond the buzz

Post by Mike Klassen in


The mighty W turns again on Hastings Street
The mighty W turns again on Hastings Street

The acute attention paid to Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (DTES) neighbourhood by the world media may have worn off, but visitors to the city wishing to go off the beaten path might want to see it for themselves. I admit that hanging out on Vancouver's mean streets might not be for everyone, but I know that several are interested in the future of the DTES. One place to try and grasp the challenge of this community, and what's being done about it, is to visit the information centre set up by BC Housing at the Woodwards building.

The housing centre was derided by anti-poverty activists as a propaganda tool. That's for you to decide, of course, but my impression of the place is that it is trying to show the many layers of the complex social problems that beset the blocks around Hastings & Main, and what's being done about it. The Woodward's building itself is a visionary example of how you can bring several parties together – business, government, social agencies & the community – to benefit all.

My visit to Woodwards was too brief to know how well it relates to the street and surrounding community. The building itself will soon house SFU's performing arts campus, and it currently has a daycare facility and hundreds of social housing units. Of course, it has the iconic W sign, spinning above the atrium.

The BC Housing centre lets visitors know about the single-room occupancy hotels purchased, then restored by the provincial government, then subsequently managed by local social agencies. You learn about the social housing developments – 14 in total – which are either underway, or in planning stages throughout Vancouver, thanks to a partnership signed between the City and the provincial government a couple years back.

The Woodwards building is only a short distance from Waterfront station, about 4 blocks east on Cordova Street, and right beside Gastown. There's a fine little grocery store on site, as well as a great JJ Bean coffee shop. Here's a short image slideshow from my visit.

If you are interested into touring beyond Woodwards and have an appetite for culture, we recommend that you check out ArtWalk Vancouver 2010. They describe it like this:

ArtWalk Vancouver provides a platform to promote and aid the insanely fantastic work of all the visual artists working in Vancouver’s Downtown East side, Chinatown and Gastown communities. You are invited to explore the galleries, retail spaces, studios and temporary “pop up” galleries involved and to see the work of over 250 artists from a full spectrum of disciplines. Join us on our first annual ArtWalk and support the hard work and passion of all who spends their life creating and making for the sake of art. See you on the street.

The Grace-Gallery Satellite Galleries in Gastown (2-20 Water St.) are open every day until February 25th. 2pm-7pm. Read this profile of ArtWalk in the Vancouver Sun by Suzannah Millette.

- post by Mike


Who was the pinheaded dork who decided on that giant mural above the entrance lobby of horse mounted riot cops beating the crap out of poor little progressives?

Truly a tragic piece of agitprop pseudo art meant to propagate a continued sense of grievance and entitlement mongering.

The image by Stan Douglas is meant to be provocative. It is Woodwards after all, which has been the centre of many debates on social issues. Personally, I like the image, which is clearly staged for effect (a cop on a mounted horse, for example, wears what looks like an Edmonton Eskimos football helmet). Here's the mural you describe:

Do people looking at Renaissance paintings depicting war and struggles use them to wage battles today? No. They're time pieces.

Let's try to discuss these topics without calling people names.

If you're interested, this is a bit of history on the mural:

You may need to copy and paste the link! Hope it works...

I finished my last Olymic outing by going past the tent city a block east of Woodwards on Hastings. A sobering sight but it should be on everyone's list, especially for the political elite.

On a lighter note, the artisan market opposite Woodwards on Cordova looks good.

Check out!

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