Vancouver Art Gallery
Vancouver Art Gallery - click to visit the museum's own site On our previous trip to Vancouver Birgit and I "missed" Vancouver Art Gallery. This time we went there first time we came downtown - a couple of minutes walk from Granville Station. Just to be told by the staff, that the gallery was closed on Mondays off tourist season. So we had to come back the following day. The building was very elegant with neoclassical columns and the entryways guarded by lions and other imposing stone work. In the hall we had a conversation with 2 women: a black (I hope that this is a politically correct term?) girl with a baby and her mother-in-law. The mother-in-law had come to Vancouver from USA to see her newborn granddaughter - the same reason that had brought Birgit and me to Vancouver. The mother-in-law told us, that she was trying to talk her husband into moving to Vancouver, as he had just retired from work.

In the early 1900's, Francis Rattenbury won an architectural competition to create a new courthouse for the city of Vancouver. At that time we did not realize, that we would meet Mr. Rattenbury again in Victoria, where he has designed some of the most magnificent buildings on Vancouver Island, the Empress Hotel and the Parliament. The courtroom was very impressive with marbles imported from Alaska, Tennessee and Vermont. 18 courtrooms served the city for more than 60 years.


Rotunda in Vancouver Art Gallery After 60 years the city had outgrown its courthouse and Arthur Erickson - another great Canadian architect and designer - was called on to redesign the building and provide new and better facilities. Erickson converted the old courthouse into a new home for the Vancouver Art Gallery. The interior was completely redesigned to meet the demands of an art gallery. Courtrooms were "turned into" wide space and the old copper dome above the majestic rotunda was replaced by 4.9 m of fiberglass to allow light to enter. Inside the building is a lot of plaster work, marble halls and heavy wooden doors. In the Annex Building, you will still find parts of the building, which were declared a heritage site. Here you will find the original judges' benches and original walls. The redesign finished in 1983.

In front of the gallery is a lawn, where people enjoy the sunshine in summertime. The beautiful fountain - the Centennial Fountain - in front of the museum was made to celebrate the 1866 union of Vancouver Island and British Columbia.

The gallery's rear entrance faces Robson Street. The middle of the square is a "sunken" plaza under two glass domes. Surrounding an open air skating area, nicknamed "Biker's Beach", were a restaurant and some food shops. Probably very crowded in the summertime with people having a lunch. In winter you may do some ice-skating. On the lower level there was a "Media centre" with room for exhibitions, a theatre and a conference centre.

Vancouver Art Gallery is the largest art museum west of Toronto. The collection focuses on contemporary art and - of course - art from British Columbia. Its collection totals more than 6,500 works. The gallery posesses the world's largest collection of works by Emily Carr.

The museum is famous for its exhibition program, which partly is developed in-house, partly borrowed from other museums. Especially we liked the gallery's public programs, which include school children, families, university students and seniors - widely acknowledged as being among the best and most creative in the country. We had fun watching a couple of school classes being introduced to art.


Phantom of the Gallery?
On our way throught the collections we didn't manage to see the most prominent resident of the gallery, the ghost 'Charlie'. The spirit of William Charles Hopkinson, an immigration officer who was murdered there in 1914, roams the catacombs, where the cells of the original courthouse are located.

Krieghoff - Images of Canada
Krieghoff, Images of Canada In Vancouver Sun we had seen that the current exhibition in the museum was Images of Canada by Krieghoff. Cornelius Krieghoff (1815-1872) has been called the father of Canadian painting. The exhibition consisted of more than 150 works, that reflect Canadian family life and landscapes in the years leading up to the Confederation. The works cover Krieghoff's development from his earliest works in Canada to his later masterpieces. Before Vancouver the collection had been exhibited in museums in Quebec and Ottawa. After Vancouver the collection would go to Montreal. This was perfect to Birgit and I, since we wanted to learn as much as possible about the creation af Canada.

Krieghoff, Winter landscape Images of Canada explored the nature and extent of Krieghoff's role as an interpreter of the Canadian landscape and of life during our period of national emergence in the mid-nineteenth century. Cornelius Krieghoff was born in Amsterdam and came to Canada in 1840 after 3 years of service in United States Army. Without formal training Krieghoff ventured to put on canvas what he saw around him and emerged as the masterly painter of the Canadian people, those who lived close to the land, habitants and Indians, presumably as he saw them, without many comments. He left it to the viewer to discern the harshness of their lives, the joy they took in various activities, their subservience to their religious superiors, and their natural "joie de vivre". He created images of Canada, specifically landscapes and scenes of First Nations life in Quebec, that were eagerly collected in his own time and that have become icons of an idealized past in the more than 125 years since his death.

During the period of 1846 to 1853 Krieghoff had a very limited income. He earned his living by selling his own paintings and reproductions of famous paintings. The sale of his own paintings were pretty bad, since the French Canadians in the beginning didn't like his genre of work. Lucky for Krieghoff it was easier to sell his reprodtions - although he hated to copy paintings. But by the year 1860 Krieghoff was a well-established painter in Quebec.

Krieghoff travelled around Europe for 7 years, returning to Quebec in 1870. No doubt he observed art trends in the European countries he visited, and he arranged to have his works shown in Europe, notably in the Exposition Universalle, Paris in 1867. At this time, his works were on display in the United States at various locations. After his return to Canada, Krieghoff turned even more to figures, frequently Indians, although habitants were still of enormous importance to him. Spring and summer settings are so few, did Krieghoff just not like painting greenery, or did he go fishing and hunting with friends? Scenes of habitants and Indians struggling with the difficult climate may have seemed more dramatic and exotic to city buyers and were hence more profitable. He established his own particular niche in genre painting, those who lived close to the soil. There is an acceptance of circumstances. Life was indeed harsh in a log cabin in the wilderness, or as semi-nomads living in the bush, but there is humour too, and Krieghoff had an unerring eye for the small details, steam from a horse's nostrils, snow melted in a circle around a pipe on a settler's cabin roof, sunsets, storm clouds and starlight. Late 1871 Krieghoff moved to Chicago, where he died few months later. He is buried in Graceland Cemetery in Chicago.


Gospel at St. Andrew's-Wesley Church
St. Andrew's-Wesley Church, Vancouver - click to visit the homepage of the church When walking for the art gallery we spotted a beautiful church at Burrard and Nelson. Birgit and I can never resist entering any church, that we spot. And almost every time we are most welcome to take a look around. A nice lady showed us around and presented us to the church, which was built in 1933. She seemed impressed when I told her, that our local church in Denmark was about 500 years old, when St. Andrew's was erected. We sat down for a moment and enjoyed the many wonderful stained glass windows. The lady suggested that we should come back to the church on Sunday at 16:00 - for Jazz Vespers - or Thursday at 20:00 - for Thursday Night Live.

Thursday Night Live!
Thursday night we went downtown by SkyTrain and had dinner at a restaurant close to St. Andrew's. And at 19:45 we sat at the benches together with maybe 50 other persons looking forward to the gospel concert. Rev. Gordon Turner was the liturgist and storyteller. When Gordon Turner came to St. Andrew's i 1991, he had a background as a jazz musician (trombone player) and leader of many jazz services in Toronto. Since 1993 Jazz Vespers have been part of the church's regularly scheduled services. Gordon Turner pointed out, that "Jazz was born in the Church". And that "Gospel was part of the struggle for freedom, recognition and personhood in the black slave communities of the South. Blacks put to music their belief that they could stand tall amidst the oppression of their world".

Julie Blue This weeks program consisted of 3 sets, each addressing a theme, fx "Conversation with the Christian Story". Rev. Gordon introduced each theme, which was followed by a number of songs performed by the "the Singspiration Singers" directed by Julie Blue.

Julie Blue is a songwriter and has written award winning music for film, theatre and TV. She is also a performer (keyboard) and have released 4 CD's. She is the leader of the Singspiration Singers and give courses and arranges workshops on singing and songwriting. It turned out that she had written 5 of the songs in the concert. And the mixture of Rev. Turner's notes and the performances of the chorus was a very moving and engaging experienc. The concert lasted about 1½ hours. We were both happy that we accepted the invitation to participate. Next time we come to Vancouver we will attend the Jazz Vesper.


Indiatown
Indiatown, Vancouver The last day in Vancouver Claus suggested that we should go to Indiatown or Little India, which is the area around around 49th Avenue and Main Street in Vancouver South. It is like a miniature of India - I must admit, that I guess, since I have not yet been to India. Lots of ethnic shops with exotic food, silk fabric, gold and jewelry in the window, spice stores etc. Although it was on a Sunday all shops were crowded with citizens of Indian origin. Ladies were promenading their gold bracelets dangling from both wrists. We entered a couple of shops and Birgit and Janet saw a young women try her wedding gown. There are several other ethnic neighbourhoods in Vancouver, like Chinatown in downtown Vancouver, Little Italy on Commercial Drive in East Vancouver and Greek restaurants on West Broadway in Kitsilano. But of these areas we found Indiatown the most interesting and not crowded with tourists. I do know, that I'm a tourist myself, but that doesn't mean that I have to like other tourists.


The Dark side of Vancouver
Although Birgit and I love Vancouver we are not totally blind to the big-city problems that Vancouver has to deal with. Janet, our daughter-in-law has been working as a street-nurse for a couple of years Downtown East Side. Many of her clients are alcoholics and drug abusers. Statistics report that every year approx. 400 people die from an overdose (in 1988 39 people). More than 60 percent of the drug addicts are HIV-positive. It seems like Vancouver attracts drug abusers not only from British Columbia but from all Canada and part of USA.

Many people of First Nation origin have exchanged the dreary life in the reservates with an existense dominated by alcohol in the big city. Up to 1951 Indian ceremonies and carving totem poles were forbidden by federal laws!

Although working in the streets of Vancouver East Side is tough and sometimes scaring Janet talks of her clients with respect and compassion. Many of her clients have been abused earlier in their lives. And some of them are extremely intelligent, have a higher education and used to have an important job. So Janet finds her work both tough and rewarding, although she finds that resources spent on dealing with this serious problem are far too limited.

But now come along to more joyful places of Vancouver, Stanley Park and Granville Island.

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