The bronze horse looking out over the corner of Kingsway and Edmonds is far from your usual equestrian statue.
It’s neither a noble steed bearing royalty nor a victorious warhorse carrying the triumphant general.
It’s an old horse with a sway back, caught in the act of dropping to the ground for a rest. It still wears its yoke, a sign of the work it has done for years, logging the wilderness that used to occupy the very ground on which it sits.
Ken Lum stands next to the statue, rubbing the yoke with his fingers – an act he hopes will become the “good luck” touch for visitors who will cross paths with his art in the years to come.
The Retired Draft Horse and the Last Pulled Log is a new piece of public art, commissioned by the City of Burnaby and Cressey Development Group and newly installed in the plaza at the new Kings Crossing development site. (An official unveiling ceremony is set for the morning of Monday, March 2.)
“I wanted it to evoke a past but also to address today. I didn’t want it to be about just what we have lost,” Lum says.
Rather, he says, he sees the work as an allegory that may speak to progress and change in the city and spur reflection of what we have built out of the wooded land that used to occupy this urban space.
The internationally acclaimed artist, born and raised in East Van, is most known in Vancouver as the creator of the East Van cross, formally known as the Monument to East Vancouver. Lum, who’s now serving as the chair of fine arts at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design in Philadelphia, is back in the Lower Mainland for the launch of his new book, Everything is Relevant: Writings on Art and Life 1991-2018 – and, of course, for the installation of his new sculpture in Burnaby.
Lum’s quest to conceive a sculpture based on Burnaby’s history led him to a search of historical photographs, inspiring several ideas that he discarded for various reasons. Lakes and woods? Too romantic. The old Interurban tram? No, now we have SkyTrain. Mid-century architecture? No, an architectural-inspired piece seemed the wrong fit for the development.
Delving into Burnaby’s labour history gave him a few more ideas. He considered the donkey engines they used to use in logging, which he notes had an interesting modernist shape.
Then he hit upon the horses. He was familiar with the massive Percherons and Clydesdales who hauled giant wagonloads of produce down to the Fraser River for shipment out to English Bay and beyond.
But Lum didn’t hit upon the final design for his statue until he happened, by chance, to see a picture on the Internet of a sitting horse.
“I thought, ‘I didn’t know horses sat,’” he says.
As it turns out, they don’t; sitting is an unnatural action for a horse, and it only happens for a moment while the animal is transitioning from standing to lying down, or vice versa.
Lum liked the idea of a sitting horse who would “stand sentinel” at the busy intersection, looking out at traffic.
The piece evokes the history of equestrian statuary, Lum notes, but completely turns it on its head.
“Equestrian statues are really symbols of power, but this is a beast of burden,” he says, noting it’s an obviously older horse, wearing a yoke. “It’s not about the upper classes. It’s about the labouring classes.”
Lum says that fits well with Burnaby’s history, which has been strongly working-class, and with its present. The artist, who was born in Vancouver in 1956, says the Edmonds neighbourhood now reminds him very much of the East Vancouver he grew up in, with its multi-ethnic shops and restaurants.
“Burnaby is more like East Van to me than East Van is these days,” he says.
In keeping with the terms of the art the developer wanted – to occupy two separate locations at two separate entrances to the building – Lum created a second part to the piece: the large log, with chain, that the horse has now finished pulling. That piece will be on the Edmonds Street side of the development.
The entire work, which Lum first modelled in clay and then scaled up (a process that’s much easier now than it used to be, he notes, since everything can now be done digitally), took about a year in creation from initial conceptual drawings to the finished product in bronze.
Watching over the installation of the work on Thursday and Friday, Lum has been happy to see people already stopping to check out the work and take pictures of it.
A plaque that will be installed next to the work will give its title and Lum’s name – but it won’t, Lum says, tell them what they should think of it or how they should interpret it.
“I don’t like directions that tell people how to read the work,” he says. “I want them to enjoy it, and I want them to hopefully think about its meaning.”
Freelance artists await more information on how online art-making and royalties may affect emergency benefit eligibility – The Globe and Mail
As out-of-work Canadians begin to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) on Monday, many self-employed artists across the country continued to wait for news as to what kind of financial relief would be available to them amid the COVID-19 pandemic – and when it might come.
For musicians, writers, actors and another artists used to piecing together a living wage from multiple sources, the resourcefulness that usually helps keep them afloat has now put access to CERB payments into question – due to an eligibility requirement to have “no employment or self-employment income.”
Would the sale of a CD or two on a website, or the modest revenue from an improv class delivered via Zoom render an artist ineligible? Could a paid live-streamed performance for the National Arts Centre’s #CanadaPerforms series – which aims to aid artists in this time – backfire when it comes to the bottom line?
Rebecca Blair, a harpist based in Vancouver, was one of many artists wondering if she might need to cancel certain work in order to receive an emergency benefit that would be of greater financial value.
Blair’s earnings from performances – including regular gigs in seniors’ centres – have dropped down to zero due to COVID-19, but she continues to teach harp over video networking. Her monthly income is down to about 20 per cent of what it normally is – and she expects, if she’s lucky, to pull in $500 in April. But she notes: “If you lose students, you might lose them forever.”
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government would announce soon how those working 10 hours a week or less would be able to qualify for CERB. He further promised, “We will also have more to say for those who are working, but are making less than they would with the benefit.”
A timeline for this information was not announced, however. Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said in a statement e-mailed to The Globe and Mail that, in creating CERB, the government had “prioritized a rapid relief over perfection.”
“We are adjusting so that it doesn’t penalize certain people like gig workers,” he wrote. “We are also aware of the question of artist royalties and whether certain financial payments designed to help artists in need during the COVID-19 crisis will be considered.”
In addition to individual artists, arts institutions that manage the programs that have sprung up to help them are waiting for that information. The Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, for instance, has been holding onto the fees they plan to pay local artists for daily Stuck in the House performances broadcast on the theatre company’s website, so as not to compromise anyone’s eligibility for CERB.
“I know that many of my colleagues that are looking at similar programming giving opportunities to artists, are curious about how they can compensate artists without affecting their eligibility,” said Citadel producer Jessie van Rijn.
Bobby Theodore, a playwright, translator and screenwriter based in Toronto, wondered whether he would have to hold back payments to himself. He had applied for the first payment of CERB having not received any income in 14 days, but, in the absence of clear information, he was uncertain if he’d have to leave cheques for small royalty payments uncashed to stay eligible – for instance, the $100 he is expecting from Playwrights Canada Press next month.
“I think there could be people who are afraid to get penalized and won’t apply [to CERB],” he said. “[The lack of clarity] is forcing people to make moral choices that they shouldn’t have to.”
Theodore hoped but was not confident that the government’s forthcoming information would clearly address more freelancers in his situation – who are not regularly paid on a weekly or monthly basis.
“My income works on an annual basis: I might make $20,000 in the month of April, but I might not make any money for the rest of the year,” Theodore said. The writer estimates that he has already lost 20 per cent of his expected annual income due to the COVID-19 crisis – and but notes that the two-year outlook for his finances could be even more devastating with theatre productions postponed or cancelled possibly into the new year.
Guilbeault hinted that further action specifically for the arts sector might be on the way. “We want to be there to support the arts and culture sector in these challenging times and are looking at a different array of measures.”
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U.K. couple in quarantine create art museum for pet gerbils – CTV News
A couple living under quarantine in the U.K. has taken boredom to new levels after creating an elaborate art museum for their pet gerbils.
On Monday, a Reddit user by the name of “Mariannabe” posted an image and video of the museum recreation to the social media platform’s page dedicated to posts of cute animals.
“Quarantine, day 14. Me and my boyfriend spent the whole day setting up an art gallery for our gerbil,” one of the Reddit posts from Mariannabe reads.
The “museum” is complete with hardwood flooring, seating and a sign advising the gerbils — named Pandoro and Tiramisu — not to chew the artwork.
When it comes to the art, the pieces are gerbil-themed recreations of famous artworks, such as the Mona Lisa and The Scream.
Filippo Lorenzin, the architect behind the museum, outlined each step of the design and offered a close-up view of each piece on Twitter and called the build the “most surreal 24 hours of our lives.”
According to his Twitter account, Lorenzin lives in London, U.K. and works at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Coronavirus: Street art to inform residents on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside – Global News
How do you communicate the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic to a community dealing with entrenched homelessness and drug addiction like the Downtown Eastside?
In the City of Vancouver’s case, the answer is partly through art.
The city has adapted its existing mural support program to help fund COVID-19-related murals to be painted on some of Vancouver’s growing number of boarded-up shop windows.
“It’s important because not everyone has internet,” said DTES community advocate Karen Ward, who wrote a message on one such mural near Hastings and Carrall streets.
City of Vancouver unveils measures to protect vulnerable DTES residents
That mural is a collaboration with well-known DTES street artist Smokey D, whose work has also helped communicate the toll of the overdose crisis.
The painting depicts a coughing figure and illustrations of the virus, along with advice to stay home, wash one’s hands 10 times a day, and avoid touching one’s face.
Not only do few people in the neighbourhood have internet access, said Ward, with bars and other gathering places closed down, they don’t have access to television either.
“People are hearing stuff on the street about this and that, and it’s and not always the most reliable information,” she said.
“A largish public art piece like this communicates visually and really clearly, and it is talked about among people.”
Advocates for residents of the Downtown Eastside have repeatedly warned that an outbreak of COVID-19 in the neighbourhood would be “catastrophic.”
Handwashing facilities are limited in the area, and the city has struggled to get locals to comply with social- and physical-distancing measures.
Lisa Parker, the city’s branch manager of street activities, said the mural program will be active throughout the whole city, not just the DTES.
She said the initiative aims to both get the word out about the pandemic and help reduce graffiti on the city’s boarded-up storefronts.
“Giving information on distancing, and different information that is coming in from our health officials, and just really translating that into a 2D reminder to stay safe,” she said.
Other murals have expressed support for B.C.’s health-care workers, and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and national public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam.
City of Vancouver unveils measures to protect vulnerable DTES residents
Vancouver has budgeted $15,000 for the program, and can provide up to $400 in paint. Would-be artists must have permission from the relevant property owners, tenant or business improvement association.
Artists must complete the work in two to three days, and maintain social and physical distancing while working.
The city is also asking property and business owners to pay artists for their work.
Businesses or artists who wish to participate can find out more at http://www.vancouver.ca/murals.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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