This weekend, the amenities room of Union Gospel Mission’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) housing complex will be transformed into an art gallery. Taking part in Vancouver’s Eastside Culture Crawl, the gallery will feature works from UGM’s two flagship art programs, which are taught by prominent local artists, as well as works from PHS’s The Window Community Art Shop and Pivot Legal Society’s Hope in Shadows calendar project. The exhibition is titled ‘Uncovering Vision.’
For many of UGM’s program participants, active involvement in photography and painting have been conduits for both healing and healthy new ways to experience life.
“I’ve always been interested in photography and I wanted to learn how to channel that into an actual piece of art,” says Mark Graham, a participant in UGM’s Photo 101, a program taught by esteemed photographers Kevin Clark and Leah Gregg. Available to UGM program participants, the course teaches photo composition and artistic vision, as well as historic themes in photography, as students explore their neighbourhood through the lens of a Holga camera.
“Taking Photo 101 has given me a different thing to do other than some of what I’ve done in the past,” Graham explains. After struggling with addiction to crack cocaine before coming to UGM’s Alcohol and Drug Recovery program, Graham knows what it’s like to have a shrouded view of the world.
“When I was using, my eyes were on the sidewalk,” he says, “And now that I’m making art, they’re not on the sidewalk anymore. I finally get to see and show how beautiful this neighbourhood and this world are.”
Not only is the act of art creation a conduit for healing, but the opportunity to exhibit is both dignifying and practically helpful – especially when exhibition venues are few.
Carolyn Wong, Pivot’s Hope in Shadows project coordinator, explains: “These are artists who don’t have private studio space,” she says. “They access community and public spaces to make their art. ‘Uncovering Vision’ and the Eastside Culture Crawl have created an opportunity for them to display their artwork both publicly and professionally.”
Hope in Shadows is a photography contest for low income residents where disposable cameras are handed out to the community. Selected photos are printed in a calendar, showing the beauty in the neighborhood, and calendars are sold on the street by vendors, providing dignified income. This is the first year that Hope in Shadows is exhibiting in UGM’s gallery space.
“I am super excited about this,” says Wong. “It is really great that the participating artists are able to take part in such a widely recognized cultural event in the City of Vancouver.”
Also exhibited will be works from UGM’s Women’s Centre program, Art from the Heart, and The Window Community Art Shop. Art from the Heart is a program initiated and supported by international artist Pamela Masik, where art therapists help women voice their feelings through art, and work through them in a constructive way. The Window is a non-profit social enterprise showcasing art created and sold on the DTES. The Window sells thousands of hand-crafted items and involves more than 150 local artists.
The UGM Eastside Culture Crawl Kick-Off takes place this Friday (November 15) from 5 – 6 pm at Maurice McElrea Place, 361 Heatley Avenue. There will be short speeches, along with refreshments served thanks to H.A.V.E. Café catering and Ethical Bean Coffee.
Gallery hours, for viewing and to connect with the artists, are Friday 5 – 10 pm; Saturday and Sunday 11 am – 6 pm.
Union Gospel Mission “provides counseling, education, safe housing, and alcohol and drug recovery to those struggling with poverty, homelessness, and addiction. The heart of the mission is to demonstrate God’s transforming love, ease the burden of the most vulnerable, rebuild the lives of the broken, and offer dignity to those who feel cast aside.”
Continue the Crawl to Mission Possible . . .
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.”
Five artists from the MP StudioWorks are participating in the Eastside Culture Crawl this year: Enoch Tee, Shalimar Lakowski, Montana King, Diane Jacobs and Aliza Canjura. Jenny says you can expect to see mixed media works, ceramic sculpture, pottery, paintings and crafts.
MP StudioWorks is located at 335 Princess Avenue, just north of Hastings Street.
For more than 20 years, Mission Possible “has walked alongside people challenged by homelessness and poverty. Every day we provide street-level care for those with immediate and critical needs as well as create jobs that build a bridge to stability through a variety of enterprising ventures. Mission Possible is helping people renew a sense of dignity and purpose through meaningful work.”
. . . and to Jenny’s studio
Jenny Hawkinson also welcomes anyone to swing by her personal studio as well during the Crawl, at 450 East Hastings – just a bit further west along Hastings Street.
This is her artist’s statement, as found on the Eastside Crawl site:
“My work explores the boundaries of preservation and the tenuous nature of perception as it pertains to a family history. I am interested in the material traces left by past generations, narratives that have embellished with time, and the role of erasure or absence.
“Integral in my process is the use of materials that have personal histories; quilting scraps, archived photographs, handkerchiefs — remnants of a collective past. This focus on familiarity and repetition constructs a narrative that is laced with hidden nuance.”