10 examples of artistic creativity around the city


Brian Liu: Open Handed (digital prints on acrylic banners, 6 panels – 6.5 x 3.5 meters each), at the Central Library.

How many times have I heard people bemoan the lack of art – or even the appreciation of art – in the modern church? That may have been legitimate in the past, but the tide has clearly turned. Here are 10 signs of the new creativity, all from Metro Vancouver.

 1. Brian Liu: Open Handed (Central Library)
Next time you’re at the Central Library, take a few minutes to admire Brian Liu’s Open Hands, created to celebrate Vancouver’s Year of Reconciliation.
According to Brian, the six banners strung across the atrium “depict three sets of hands, all in different postures of openness. Although I am not a person of aboriginal decent, I hope to respectfully reflect my appreciation and sensitivity to Aboriginal culture and art through careful design choices.”
Brian Liu's Open Hands will grace the atrium of the Central Library until October.

Brian Liu’s Open Hands will grace the atrium of the Central Library until October.

The Public Art Program of the City of Vancouver commissioned 10 new artist projects “to honour and celebrate” the city’s Year of Reconciliation, which ends this month. The banners will remain on display until October.

The Year of Reconciliation “acknowledges the negative cultural impacts and stereotypes that resulted from Canada’s residential school system” and was timed to coincide with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission gathering that took place in Vancouver last fall.

“In preparation for this commission, said Brian, “I found it important to reflect on reconciliation in my own life. Embedded in all the creases and folds of my own hands is a complicated and unique history. As an immigrant [from Hong Kong], I was accepted and blessed with the abundance of this great country and I am proud to be Canadian.

“So how then would a nation of people with unique paths and histories approach truth and reconciliation? In this series, I hope to invite the country to be in a posture of openness. When our hands are open, we are ready to learn, grow, give, receive and share. It is only in this place of openness that we can properly approach healing and building of our future. In many cultures, open hands are a symbol of hospitality, love and the human spirit.”

Brian Liu

Brian Liu

Brian described his work at a recent WeMakeStuff performance evening.

His website indicates that he is part of Collective at Tenth Church, “a group of creative professionals working in the field of media arts, design and fine arts. We seek to explore our faith as we work in our respective fields through prayer, scripture and community.”

A 2012 interview with Brian on the Tenth site explored his faith and his art:

“God is a creator. He paints, sculpts, dances, sings, speaks into our lives. Art is a reflection of ourselves just as we are reflections of God. We make things because it’s in our nature to see beauty and to celebrate the process of making. As God has created the world and us in it, we are still being moulded. As we pursue art, we are entering a process of creation that is full of love, intent, and grace. Just as our God does.”

 2. Jason Nahanee: Statue (St. Paul’s Catholic Church)
statue1Over on the North Shore, in another reconciliation-related project – a statue – was erected on National Aboriginal Day, June 21.
An article in the B.C. Catholic tells the painful story of Barbara Wyss, who attended St. Paul’s Indian Residential School in North Vancouver from 1952 – 1957:
“Now a parishioner at St. Paul’s Indian Catholic Church, Wyss admits she had trouble trusting the Church after she left the residential school. ‘I was very bitter and angry for a long time. I did a lot of counselling, and my father said it’s the people who were running these institutions, not God, and not the Church, who caused the problems.’

“When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission announced it would fund residential school memorials through its Commemoration Initiative, Wyss sent in a proposal for a monument on the land of her former school.

“She suggested a carving of a boy and a girl, standing back to back on a concrete base . . . The TRC did not accept the proposal, but various donors stepped in to support the erection of the memorial . . .

“Jason Nahanee spent one year carving the seven-foot-tall wooden section of the monument. ‘We want to show that these were strong young people before the residential school came along,’ he said. The other portion, made of cement, will be in the shape of a wave, and display 600 names of students who attended St. Paul’s.”
3. WWF Mural (Holy Cross Regional High School)
Holy Cross Regional High School was pointed for - and won - the WWF mural competition. Photo from HCRHS Facebook page.

Holy Cross Regional High School was painted for – and won – the WWF mural competition. Photo from HCRHS Facebook page.

WWF Canada has just chosen a mural by Holy Cross Regional High School students as the winner in its Art of Empowerment Mural Contest.

“With so many strong entries,” they said, “it was hard to choose just one winner – but, besides Holy Cross Regional HS’s amazing video entry, we loved that, if they won, Holy Cross students promised to involve the elementary school across the street, St. Matthew’s.
“On their application, Holy Cross students said, ‘With this mural, we would like to inspire and encourage kids from the elementary school to take action to help our environment in any way they can, as they look up to us high school students as we make a change for our environment. And, hopefully, they’ll be the ones carrying that same motivation into Holy Cross as they enter high school.’”
WWF says of itself: “Over time, our work has evolved from protecting particular wildlife species and habitats to protecting life on Earth – including our own.”
There are more pictures on the Holy Cross Facebook page. The Province shot a short video on the project, here.
4. Makoto Fujimura (Vancouver Art Gallery, Regent College)
Makoto Fujimura will be at both the Vancouver Art Gallery and Regent College in July.

Makoto Fujimura will be at both the Vancouver Art Gallery and Regent College in July.

We’re in for a real treat next month, with two visits by Makoto Fujimura. 

First, Image Journal will host Caring for the Culture: Why Beauty Matters at the Vancouver Art Gallery July 12. The evening will begin with a catered rooftop reception, following which guests will be able to view a collection of Fujimura’s work on the top two floors of the gallery, which will be closed to the general public.
Fujimura is a painter, author and leader of the International Arts Movement. He was born in Boston and raised in both Japan and the States. Organizers describe him as “an artist who has spent years learning and perfecting traditional Japanese crafts and expressions . . . [He] creates his own technique, simultaneously embracing and altering traditional methods.”

Second, Regent College will host Fujimura July 28 as he screens his documentary Golden Sea and answers questions about it. Golden Sea is a monograph, a film and an exhibition – this evening will focus on the film.


Spirit of Truth will be on display at Regent College’s Lookout Gallery during July.

Speaking of Regent College, it hosts Lookout Gallery, which for years has presented a series of strong art shows. Next month (July 3 – August 1) you can see the work of S. Brooke Anderson. Lookout invites you to join them for the opening reception of her Spirit of Truth exhibition on Thursday (July 3), from 4:30 – 7:30 pm.

She says of her work: “My paintings often depict an idealization of the landscape, as a healing place where miracles may occur. This body of work entitled “Spirit of Truth” explores both the seen and the unseen, reflecting my conviction that “the presence of God is everywhere, one needs only to look.”

5. Right of Passage (Trinity Western University)

right-of-passage1Right of Passage features the work of graduating art + design students, and will be on exhibit until August 22 in the President’s Gallery on the Trinity Western campus. You can explore mixed media pieces by Olivia de Fleuriot de la Colinière, Emily Garrison, Diana Hiebert, Amy Robinson and Tara Spencer (which were recently displayed in a Langley Centennial Museum exhibition).
In the fall, the 8th Verge Conference – Arts + Re/Search – will be held at Trinity Western: “This conference seeks to explore how material, experiential, transitory and performative practices constitute research, and the implications of the question for the artist, the academy and the wider communities in which artists work.”
Organizers are still accepting proposals, but only until June 30.
6. Christian Seasons Calendar
saltoftheearth1Also accepting submissions until June 30 is Salt of the Earth: The Christian Seasons Calendar for 2014/2015. This unique and beautiful calendar is produced by University Hill Congregation; view a sample of the current Christian Seasons Calendar here.

“Interested artists are encouraged to offer artwork that interprets scripture readings and themes within the Christian Year. A list of the scripture readings used in Year B of the Revised Common Lectionary can be found here.

“There is one page available for an image for each of the following seasons: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week and Easter. There are five pages available for art in the Season after Pentecost. On these pages we seek images that portray Pentecost, All Saints Day and the Reign of Christ as well as images particular to biblical texts included in the lectionary readings during this season of growth in discipleship.”

Check out pastor Ed Searcy’s Holy Scribbler blog for more information.

7. Indigenous and Mennonite Artistic Traditions (Sts’Ailes Lhawathet Lalem Retreat Centre)

sharingourstoriesposter1On August 21 – 24, Mennonite Central Committee BC’s Aboriginal Neighbours Program is putting on a Sharing Our Stories conference, which will celebrate and explore the unique Mennonite and Indigenous artistic traditions of B.C. residents.

This reflective and collaborative weekend includes cross-cultural dialogue and the opportunity to experience an Indigenous Sunday morning worship service.

Special guests include local visual, musical, narrative, and poetic artists such as Glenda Klassen, Brander McDonald, Yummo, Harley and Sue Eagle, the J.D. Miner Band, and more.

The Aboriginal Neighbours program, run by Darryl Klassen, “strives to foster respectful relations and understanding with Aboriginal people by creating opportunities for dialogue, service and learning for our churches and placing MCC workers in aboriginal communities.”

(My family knows the value of Darryl’s work first-hand, having accompanied him on a camping trip to three native communities in the Interior of BC about 20 years ago. That trip proved formative in our lives.)

8. We Make Stuff, Volume 2
The WeMakeStuff team.

The WeMakeStuff team.

Anyone who has seen Volume 1 of WeMakeStuff, featuring 100 artists, has held in their hands the evidence of a vibrant arts movement in the local Christian community. The good news is that Volume 2 is on the horizon, due out this fall.

Here’s how they describe themselves: “We are artists and innovators, rallying together to document what creative people are doing across Canada. While sharing a passion for creative excellence, these artists also share a common pursuit of living a life that embodies the teachings and Spirit of Jesus Christ. Recognizing that we are both good and poor examples of Christ’s teachings, we wrestle in the realm of creativity to express ourselves and grow as people.”

9. Jenny Harkinson: MP StudioWorks 

Jenny Hawkinson and a friend with works produced at MP StudioWorks at Fair in the Square.

Jenny Hawkinson and a friend with works produced at MP StudioWorks at Fair in the Square.

MP StudioWorks “is a studio space and gallery that seeks to inspire the creative energy of the Downtown Eastside Community,” in the words of community life facilitator and artist-in-residence Jenny Hawkinson. ”Together. novice and experienced painters, carvers, potters, sculptors and musicians explore artistic expression and entrepreneurship as a pathway to lasting change.”

Jenny and the MP StudioWorks artists love to invite the community in to see their work, as in the Eastside Culture Crawl, or get out and about, as they did earlier this month at Fair in the Square in Victory Square

(Right across Princess Street from MP StudioWorks is Union Gospel Mission, which hosted an art show last fall, with help from Emily Carr University Instructor, Jeanne Krabbendam, and another during the Eastside Culture Crawl.)

10. Stations of the Cross now at St. Thomas
Jesus Takes Up the Cross is one of the Stations of the Cross series by Chris Wood.

Jesus Takes Up the Cross is one of the Stations of the Cross series by Chris Wood

Earlier this year, Rev. Michael Batten tucked the  paintings of the Stations of the Cross series by Chris Woods under his arm as he moved from St. David of Wales Anglican Church to St. Thomas Anglican Church. St. David closed due to declining membership in February, and Michael took over at St. Thomas shortly afterwards; both churches are in East Vancouver. (The move did have the blessing of both the diocese and the artist, for the record.)

The Vancouver Courier did an article on the move at the time: “The paintings depict the suffering of Christ on the way to the cross in Vancouver of the 1990s. Woods used friends and family as models for the pieces . . .

“It was a really great experience,” he said. “The reason I took the commission in the first place was because Christian themes were sort of the bread and butter for artists for a 1,000 years essentially before the camera was invented . . . So if you were a young artist, you would work with religious themes – that’s where the work was.”

“[The dedication and blessing] was a very vaulted and important ceremony and lots of holy water was thrown about. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and certainly for me, at the centre of it, to have created works of art that are literally considered sacred – that’s something I treasure definitely.”

For a very helpful article about what can artists teach the church, read The Art of Embodiment by Alissa Wilkinson.

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