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Bike or walk your way through self-guided public-art tours that turn Vancouver and area into outdoor gallery – Straight.com

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If you’re craving a cultural fix, but COVID has you sticking to the great outdoors, a host of self-guided biking and walking tours are waiting to show you a new world of public art.

So while you may be well-acquainted with the giant sparrows in Myfanwy MacLeod’s sculpture The Birds in Olympic Village or the howling mass of bronze figures in Yue Minjun’s A-maze-ing Laughter at English Bay, there are dozens of lesser-known but equally enticing creations tucked along the region’s pathways and bike routes.

Grab your smartphone, your sunblock, and, if you’re so inclined, your two wheels: here are a few artfully minded tours to take on your next day out.

<span class="picturefill" data-picture data-alt="Marcus Bowcott'sTrans Am Totem near Science World, part of the Vancouver Biennale’s public art legacy.”>
Marcus Bowcott’sTrans Am Totem near Science World, part of the Vancouver Biennale’s public art legacy.
Vancouver Biennale

BIKEnnale/WALKennale

Vancouver Biennale offers 12 unique, self-guided GPS routes through the city’s neighbourhoods, highlighting great public art, architecture, and layers of local history until August 30. You can register for $5 to get access to all of the new routes that get unveiled each weekend. The Ride With GPS app allows registrants to follow the BIKEnnale/WALKennale paths, guided by a friendly turn-by-turn voice. And note that the bike-share service Mobi by Shaw Go offers free 24-hour passes to registered participants on each Sunday during the event.

Artworks of interest: Marvel at works that the biennial public-art celebration has brought to the city: Chinese artist Michael Zheng’s The Stop, a series of stop signs with their backs painted pink, at Alberta Street and West 3rd Avenue; or Brazilian artist José Resende’s WOW Westminster, a gigantic red W built from four cantilevered shipping containers along New Westminster’s riverside walk.

Info: vancouverbiennale.com/

<span class="picturefill" data-picture data-alt="Gathie Falk’s 18 Pairs of Blue and White Running Shoes at West 35th and Cambie.”>
Gathie Falk’s 18 Pairs of Blue and White Running Shoes at West 35th and Cambie.
Maureen Smith

City of Vancouver self-guided public-art tours

The City of Vancouver has handy maps to follow by phone, complete with pictures and details about the pieces you discover. Self-guided tours include the downtown waterfront area and Yaletown.

Artworks of interest: Check out Samuel Roy-Bois’s Still Standing, a 2019 installation at 1750 Pendrell Street—a folding screen made up of aluminum “shingles” that recall the cedar shakes of old West End houses, First Nations plank houses, and fish scales. And now’s your chance to see the latest public artwork by West Coast legend Gathie Falk: 18 Pairs of Blue and White Running Shoes, at West 35th Avenue and Cambie Street, is lined up along a concrete planter wall in a Washington Properties development. Installed with two other sculptures by the artist on the site (900 Oranges and 10 Baseball Caps), it illustrates her ability to raise everyday objects into high art, repeating the imagery to comment on ideas of gender and status. And don’t miss Peter Gazendam’s A Long Conversation (For Oona), his 2017 series of larger-than-life bronze banana slugs, installed in and around Columbia College’s Terminal Avenue campus.

Info: vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/explore-the-public-art-registries.aspx

<span class="picturefill" data-picture data-alt="The City of North Vancouver's Nebula Garden, by Claudia Cuesta and Bill Baker.”>
The City of North Vancouver’s Nebula Garden, by Claudia Cuesta and Bill Baker.

North Shore public art map

With its own ever-expanding array of conversation-starting public artworks, the city offers self-guided tours customized for areas like Central Lonsdale, Lynn Valley, Deep Cove, and Edgemont, complete with online map, photos, and background info.

Artworks of interest: Claudia Cuesta and Bill Baker’s mesmerizing Nebula Garden in Lower Lonsdale is a 40-foot curved wall that features formless liquid masses shifting and changing with atmospheric conditions—a transcendent, digitally lit salute to the terrestrial and the galactic. Elsewhere, you’ll have seen, but maybe not fully appreciated, Douglas Senft’s steel cathedral in a park near Lonsdale Quay, a spidery construction that reflects the peaks of the surrounding North Shore mountains.

Info: gisext2.cnv.org/publicart/

John Marston’s Honouring Our Cedar in North Vancouver.
North Vancouver Culture Compass

North Shore Culture Compass 

Just as COVID-19 was pushing us into lockdown this spring, North Vancouver launched this user-friendly map-guide to the area’s cultural resources—including all of its public art, with helpful background info and a handy TransLink trip planner. 

Artworks of interest: Look hard for Ken Clarke’s hidden Coho Creek—Spirits, which finds the titular creatures nestled in a bioswale alongside the Green Necklace pathway. Coast Salish carver John Marston’s Honouring Our Cedar, from 2015, is also worth a stop as you roll along the Mosquito Creek pathway—a contemporary-edged work that pays tribute to the ancient material and its importance to the region.

Info: www.northshoreculturecompass.ca/ 

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High school art relaunches online – St. Albert TODAY

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If you’re going through with.draw.all withdrawal, then the cure is nigh.

The Gazette’s online venue that featured local high school students’ art from the latter end – re: the COVID end – of the school year was an über-popular place to get your visual fix from the creative wunderkinds. The students discovered a new way to get their work out there and learned even more about the therapeutic value of artistic creation.

Now that school is back in session, a new collaborative art project is being launched.

Re/LAUNCH/ing is aimed at hitting the same high notes that its predecessor did, but with the added emphasis on the intrinsic value of art to the artist.

“The importance of the arts in education can’t be stressed enough. Not only is it helping our youth with their mental health in a really stressful time but it is providing an avenue to really work on developing their creative and critical thinking skills. This is going to become even more crucial in the near future. These times that we are living through will require creative thinkers to help society move forward,” expressed Colleen Hewitt, art teacher at Paul Kane High School.

Students will explore a medium inside of a specific theme as part of their art educations. A selection of their creative output will be featured on stalberttoday.ca on the last Thursday of each month.

“We are so grateful for another opportunity to showcase the talent of our St. Albert art students. The city gets to have a sneak peek of what is currently going on in the art programs. It is so important for these students to have a platform to share their creative ideas and thoughts. Finding ways to connect our students with the art community and see how other youth in St. Albert are demonstrating their creative path allows for collaborative growth,” stated Teresa Wallsten, art teacher at St. Albert Catholic High School.

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Come to Vote, Stay for the Art – The New York Times

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While many California museums are still shuttered because of the coronavirus, and others are opening slowly at limited capacity, the Institute of Contemporary Art San José has come up with an ingenious solution to open the museum, legally, for four days.

Starting on Oct. 31 through Election Day, the museum will become a polling site. Alison Gass, its executive director, is hoping that civic-minded citizens will stream through the museum to vote and take time to appreciate the art inside (a local art exhibition called “Personal Alchemy”) and out.

It will be hard not to notice.

A 50-foot vinyl mural by the Iranian-born artist Amir H. Fallah will wrap around the museum’s facade, and two six-foot circular paintings of his will slowly rotate in two windows.

Credit…Amir H. Fallah and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles; Alan Shaffer

In his mural, titled “Remember This,” messages in vibrant colors read: “REMEMBER MY CHILD NOWHERE IS SAFE”; “THEY WILL SMILE TO YOUR FACE”; and “A BORDERLESS WORLD,” along with other text. By “child,” Mr. Fallah means his younger self — by the age of 6, he had lived in four countries (Iran, Italy, Turkey and the United States) — and his 5-year-old son. “In America, people have a false sense of security,” he said in a recent interview.

In late July, Ms. Gass, who also is the museum’s chief curator, asked Mr. Fallah to paint a mural that addressed “the social and political conditions happening in this election and beyond.” He told her that was what he was thinking about, too. His paintings would appear outside of the institute, “because we wanted a safe way for people to see art,” Ms. Gass said.

A few days later, she met with her longtime collaborator, Florie Hutchinson, who was about to become the museum’s director of external relations. Ms. Hutchinson thought of a way for more people to see Mr. Fallah’s art: Make the institute a polling place.

“Many people in the past voted at their neighbor’s garage or in retirement homes,” said Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state. That is no longer possible. California is promoting vote by mail “as a preferred option,” Mr. Padilla said. But for those wanting to vote in person, he said, counties have become “more creative.”

Santa Clara County, of which San Jose is the county seat, will be using libraries, empty schools, City Hall Council chambers, another museum and even a police department,said Paulo Chang, the county registrar of voters, election division coordinator.

As people enter the polling place, Mr. Fallah said, “I want them to think about what their vote means, how it affects everyone and everything around them.”

Credit…Maggie Shannon for The New York Times

Mr. Fallah said his paintings for the museum are self-portraits with imagery from disparate cultures that express injustices all over the world. “This is a pretty political mural, but it doesn’t say to vote one way or another,” he added.

(California does not allow anyone within 100 feet of a polling place to engage in electioneering, which refers to displays of a candidate’s name, likeness on buttons, hats or signs. It says nothing about art that addresses anxieties or calls for more empathy.)

An American citizen, Mr. Fallah, 41, who lives in Los Angeles, said he has experienced what he calls the abuse of government power firsthand. In January 2017, when President Trump closed the nation’s borders to refugees and suspended immigration from several predominantly Muslim countries, he was detained “in a basement room at Newark Airport with other brown people,” almost all of whom were citizens, he said. He said his passport was taken from him.

Mr. Fallah’s paintings reflect his fears that “the world is getting darker and darker,” he said. His concerns include but are not limited to “the environment, the treatment of children by ICE, racism, social injustice, an almost war with Iran for no reason,” he said.

Mr. Fallah is also designing a giveaway button that says: “Vote like your life depends on it.” That message will be on signs in city bus shelters and on streetlight poles.

“We were poised to be nimble, especially in a moment of unimaginable crisis for arts organizations,” Ms. Gass said.

The institute, which used to be called the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art but was recently renamed, occupies a red brick, one-story building in downtown San Jose, the third-largest city in California, which Sam Liccardo, its mayor, has called “a city of immigrants.” As of 2014, 38 percent of residents were immigrants, including an Iranian community.

The institute, which is celebrating its 40th year, usually sees 30,000 visitors annually and has a $1.5 million budget. It received some assistance from the Paycheck Protection Program and has kept all seven employees.

At the end of July, Ms. Gass, the former director of University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art, was sitting on a curb in Palo Alto, sipping ice coffee with Ms. Hutchinson. They wanted Mr. Fallah’s art to be seen by as many people as possible during “this most important election of our lifetime,” Ms. Hutchinson said.

The next day, in the shower, Ms. Hutchinson said, it came to her: “What if there’s a way we can open the building for the purposes of letting people vote?”

Ms. Hutchinson was familiar with the California Voter’s Choice Act, which is designed to make voting more convenient. It decouples voting from neighborhoods by offering “vote centers,” larger venues near parking and transit hubs. Voters can choose any center countywide.

Credit…Amir H. Fallah and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles; Alan Shaffer
Credit…Amir H. Fallah and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles; Alan Shaffer

“Throughout my career I’ve been drawn to art that is about politics,” such as Mr. Fallah’s work, Ms. Gass said, “in which you begin to find meaning for yourself.” She chose an artist from an underrepresented group: “artists from countries not given a big platform in American museums.” His work “is bound up in American identity and the immigrant experience,” she added, calling it “beautiful and disturbing.”

Mr. Fallah’s art has been exhibited worldwide in over 100 shows. He is best known for his veiled people — concealed behind gorgeously patterned fabrics. His work was featured in an online exhibition last spring called “How Can We Think of Art at a Time Like This?”

His painting is 16 feet by 3 feet. Through the use of high-resolution photography, it has been enlarged and printed on vinyl as a mural. It and the two circular paintings are mash-ups: Ancient script is set against skateboarders’ graffiti, Persian miniature horses against the Black Panthers logo. The circular paintings represent Earth and are edged with “the chaotic mesh of plant life,” he said. One is called “Cowboy,” the other “Cowgirl,” inspired by vintage Valentines. Mixed in are images of a Cambodian propaganda figure, mythical figures from old match boxes, “debris of life” that he finds online. When the paintings rotate, plants and cultures will tumble onto one another.

Explanatory text will appear in five languages, including Spanish, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Farsi.

Mr. Fallah said he hoped his art would make people “stop in their tracks and think about what their vote means.”

“The big thing missing in our society is empathy,” he said. Will his art make people care about others? “Will it? I don’t know,” he said. “That’s my desire.”

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The art of digitizing ancient calligraphy – CNN

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Written by Dan Tham, CNNHong Kong

From the moment we wake up and check the messages on our smartphones, we’re exposed to text design. Throughout our day, storefronts and websites announce themselves, first and foremost, through the typefaces they use — whether it’s the Helvetica used by New York City’s subway, the approachability of Cooper Black, or the proprietary CNN Sans that you’re reading on this page.

For Adonian Chan, a 33-year-old graphic designer based in Hong Kong and co-founder of design company Trilingua, the different texts we encounter in our daily lives amount to what he calls a “visual landscape.”

In his hometown, signs written in traditional Chinese characters can be found around every corner. In the hectic district of Mong Kok, neon signs advertise pay-by-the-hour hotels and foot massage parlors. In the quiet neighborhood of Tai Hang, hand-drawn signboards alert passersby to auto repair shops and Chinese medicine stalls.

But one calligraphy style, above all, has come to represent Hong Kong for Chan: Beiwei Kaishu, a dynamic way of writing that has its origins in 4th century China. But Beiwei Kaishu is endangered, Chan says. That’s why he’s on a mission to digitize it into a typeface — and save it.

A black and white sign — written in the Beiwei Kaishu style — draws attention to a chiropractor’s clinic in Hong Kong’s Yau Ma Tei district. Credit: Adonian Chan

Written in stone

According to Keith Tam, head of communication design at the Hong Kong Design Institute, Beiwei Kaishu originated in the Northern Wei Dynasty (386 — 534 AD), and was inscribed on stones to document historical events.

In the 19th century, Zhao Zhiqian, a renowned Qing dynasty calligrapher with an interest in epigraphy — the study of inscriptions — crafted his own rendition of Beiwei Kaishu and, using a brush instead of a carving knife, revived the ancient style.

The art of digitizing ancient calligraphy

Tam says although it’s not possible to pinpoint when Beiwei Kaishu made its way to Hong Kong, a well-known local calligrapher named Au Kin Kung, who was born in the 1880s, helped to spread its popularity in the city during the 20th century.

“[Au] was what we might call a ‘commercial calligrapher,’ who inscribed many shops and organizations throughout Hong Kong,” says Tam. “His commercial signage work almost always used Beiwei Kaishu.”

The Hong Kong incarnation of Beiwei Kaishu “evolved from Zhao Zhiqian’s rather softer style to become more exaggerated in the stroke beginnings, inflection points and endings,” says Tam, adding that the Hong Kong Beiwei Kaishu is “a lot more dynamic and powerful than Zhao’s hand.”

After World War II, Beiwei Kaishu was used prolifically in Hong Kong signage, partly because it is highly legible, even from far distances, says Tam. “Pragmatism is one of the characterizations of southern Chinese people, and Beiwei Kaishu seems to be a pragmatic choice.”

What sets Beiwei Kaishu apart from other Chinese writing styles is its asymmetric construction, bold lines and unexpected angles — something that makes it “energetic,” says Chan.

But with the advent of computer-generated fonts and LED signs, Chan says he observed that signs written in the style — work that depended on the skill of calligraphers — were disappearing from Hong Kong.

“It’s almost extinct,” says Chan, pointing to the rapid transformation of Hong Kong’s urban landscape. “They demolish old buildings and, of course, the shops, as well. So it’s really destruction to the visual culture.” As a consequence, few designers working today are aware of the Beiwei Kaishu style, he says.

hong kong calligraphy 3 spc intl

Beiwei Kaishu signs like this are disappearing from Hong Kong. This one belongs to Sweetheart Garden Restaurant, in Kowloon, which is famous for its steak. Credit: Adonian Chan

Creating ‘Beiwei Zansyu’

In 2016, Chan asked Wong Gok Loeng, a master of calligraphy in Hong Kong and apprentice of the famed Au Kin Kung, to teach him to write in the Beiwei Kaishu style.

Chan then started the process of digitizing the characters. He first writes the characters on paper with a brush and ink, which gives him a sense of proportion. Next, he makes a pencil sketch. Finally, he recreates the characters digitally, using a computer program called Glyphs.

One of the main challenges when digitizing the ancient calligraphy is striking a balance between the artistic expression of handwritten lettering and the need for consistency and coherence in font design, says Chan.

He can complete two characters a day, depending on their complexity, and is aiming to digitize 6,000 characters.

Chan says his project is geared at doing more than preserving a centuries-old writing style and that he sees himself as building on the work of previous generations.

“We are like co-creators of this design,” he says. He has named his typeface Beiwei Zansyu and hopes it will eventually be installed on phones and computers.

“I see Adonian’s (Chan’s) efforts in turning Beiwei Kaishu into a typeface as a form of historical preservation,” says Tam. “It’s more than waxing nostalgic to bygone eras — it’s reinterpreting and continuing its heritage in contemporary life.”

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