A Summer Visit To Vancouver B.C.-
The 2011 Vancouver Folk Music Festival, “The Colour of My Dreams: The Surrealist Revolution in Art” at The Vancouver Art Gallery and recommendations for a few Favorite Shops, Restaurants and other Destinations
By E. Joyce Glasgow
All Photo Credits/Copyrights: E. Joyce Glasgow, www.artsandculturescene.com.
Photos include the 2008 and 2009 Vancouver Folk Music Festivals and Granville Island Public Market. All Rights Reserved
(Exception: Surrealist Exhibition images, courtesy of The Vancouver Art Gallery)
Luckily for Seattleites, Canada’s close proximity (don’t forget your current passports, you can't get in and out of Canada without them!) can give one an opportunity for a spontaneous, long weekend break from life as usual, subjected daily to the craziness of U.S. politics. A whole new perspective awaits, in a different country, only a three hour car ride away, in beautiful, cosmopolitan Vancouver, British Columbia or for adventures further afield in the natural world of stunning mountains, sea, lakes, hot springs and forests.
Anytime of year, one can find stimulating arts and cultural events going on in Vancouver, a scenic, multi-cultural melting pot offering amazing restaurants featuring authentic cuisines from around the world, sophisticated art venues and the wonderful Granville Market, bursting with colorful flowers, fresh fruits and vegetables, luscious baked goods, live music, fine artisans’ shops, local and imported exotic and delicious gourmet food products, overlooking False Creek, passing boats and dramatic, ultra modern steel and glass luxury high rise condominiums across the water.
I went up to Vancouver for this summer’s 34th annual Vancouver Folk Music Festival, July 15-17, 2011, to visit some favorite shops and restaurants and to see the comprehensive, celebrated Surrealist art exhibit at The Vancouver Art Gallery, which is on exhibit through September 25, 2011. Note: Exhibit now extended through October 2nd, 2011!
The 2011 Vancouver Folk Music Festival
The 2011 Vancouver Folk Music Festival, www.thefestival.bc.ca, featured a broad and intriguing program of performers including these headliners; the incomparable, blues harmonica legend, James Cotton; Roseanne Cash; Gillian Welch; “Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks”, and actor/musician, Tim Robbins, with the “Rogues Gallery Band”.
My favorites were La-33, www.la-33.com, a sizzling, dynamic, salsa/mambo/bugaloo large band, from Bogotá, Columbia. Their tasty arrangements are jazz driven and the whole group brims with energy, enthusiasm and irresistible rhythms that had a good portion of the generally more sedentary Folk audience up on there feet, many gyrating with some considerable abandon. I heard La-33 in January 2011, at GlobalFEST 2011, www.globalfest-ny.org, in N.Y.C., where they were being showcased with twelve other world music groups and they blew me away. The front line vocalists/percussionists continually dance muy picante (very hot!) while maintaining steadfast and genuine eye contact with their audience! It’s fun to watch the brass players weaving back and forth in time to the rhythms, especially the slide trombone. I was so happy to have another opportunity to see them (in a slightly smaller grouping) at Vancouver!
Another favorite group of mine was vocalist/bandleader, Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca, (Los Angeles, Ca.), www.makinaloca.com. Lemvo, who is from the Congo, and his group perform a spicy, sultry blend of Congolese soukous, rumba and Cuban salsa and have been a working band since 1990. Lemvo’s beaming smile, gracious personality and inclusive style sets the tone for a truly joyful audience experience. Lemvo and band play often for Latin dance evenings at Seattle’s Century Ballroom, www.centuryballroom.com.
I also enjoyed the quirky, playful, improvisational jazz band, David Woodhead’s Coffeehouse Confabulation, (Toronto, Ontario),www.davidwoodhead.com, which was one of the only specifically jazz focused groups at the festival.
Freshlyground, (Cape Town, South Africa), www.freshlyground.com, were also a favorite of mine at this year’s festival. They are super-stars in there own country and are just becoming known here and were impressive in their first North American tour. Lead singer, Zolani Mahola, has an appealing, sweet, emotionally expressive voice and a sunny persona and the band’s joyful, traditional African and Afro-Pop inspired dance rhythms are infectious, fun and energizing, while their lyrics powerfully address pertinent political and social issues.
Pokey La Farge and the South City Three, (St Louis, Missouri), www.pokeylafarge.net, were the new buzz of enthusiastic festival goers, who admired this band’s original, hybrid, enveloped mix of Americana roots/country/ blues/ragtime/swing, influenced by the jazzy high intensity sound of the great guitarist, Django Reinhardt.
I enjoyed the deep, honey- voiced, funky, country/blues vocals of the award winning, Justin Townes Earle, (New York), www.justintownesearle.com, especially his “Harlem River Blues”; the relaxed, appealing, traditional Haitian/Caribbean folk music of troubadours, Ti Coca and Wanga Neges (Haiti) and the stirring and articulate heart felt political hip hop of Emmanuel Jal, (Sudan), www.myspace.com/emmanueljal, especially his compelling, autobiographical song, “Warchild”. Jal, a former “child soldier” in his native Sudan from the age of eight, grew up in unimaginable strife, until an aid worker, Emma McCune, rescued him. He now dedicates himself to working as a human rights advocate with Amnesty International, Oxfam and his own children’s charity.
The festival features a combination of traditional and alternative folk, world, blues, reggae, Celtic, some hip-hop, a little jazz, bluegrass and lately, in some recent years, some fascinating experimental electronic/techno/live hybrids, which this year included the popular, innovative, wildly imaginative, Beats Antique, (Oakland, Ca.) www.beatsantique.com.
The festival, historically, has been known for presenting powerful, moving and politically/socially oriented singer-songwriters. This year’s program included thoughtful lyricists and long time popular favorites, Leon Rosselson (Britain), www.leonrosselson.co.uk and Cris Williamson (U.S.), www.criswilliamson.com. The eclectic draw brings a loyal following of thousands of music lovers of all ages year after year, from the States and around Canada. It is always held in mid- July at the remarkable Jericho Beach Park, which has one of the most breathtaking vistas in Vancouver, positioned on English Bay, with a swimming beach, views of the mountains majestically rising from the water, picturesque sailboats, downtown’s skyscraper skyline and awe-inspiring sunsets and moon rises. The atmosphere is laid back and casual. There are a variety of food booths and artisans and importers set up their wares in a Souk- like marketplace.
The festival is usually blessed by one of our rare Northwest, sun-kissed weekends at this time of July and has been on a lucky run of predictably sunny weekends for at least ten years running, but this year, with what I attribute, in my opinion, to climate change and global warming, most of the outdoor event was inundated with rain, drizzle and clouds. For those of us who experience rain quite a lot of the year in the NW, especially this year and hungering for a real summer celebration, the bad weather was especially disappointing and many retreated to other, indoor attractions in town for at least a good part of the day Saturday and some left early on Sunday night as a light rain returned in the early evening. In true undaunted NW style, die- hard, tough- skinned festival goers stoically donned rubber boots, hats and pants, Gore-Tex jackets, plastic rain capes and umbrellas and subjected themselves to many hours in the rain. All the shows on the seven stages went on as usual.
There was another issue that upset the expectant audience and organizers. Tinariwen, the beloved Tuareg band from the Sahara Desert, (Mali) and a real festival favorite was not allowed to enter Canada. Another notable omission and a favorite of mine, Ordo Sakhna, a lovely and colorful traditional band from Kyrgyzstan, disappeared off the schedule just in the week before the event with no explanation. Another performer and bandleader, Morgan O’Kane (U.S.), was kept out of Canada at the border, even though all the other members of his band were admitted to Canada.
“The Colour of My Dreams: The Surrealist Revolution in Art”
While in Vancouver, I took the perfect opportunity to go see the incredible Surrealist art exhibit “The Colour of My Dreams: The Surrealist Revolution in Art”, currently featured at the Vancouver Art Gallery, www.vanartgallery.bc.ca, in downtown Vancouver, through September 25, 2011, note: now extended through October 2nd, 2011!. With three hundred and fifty pieces included, spanning three decades of artwork, this is the largest exhibit ever to be shown of Surrealist works in Canada. Whether a fan of Surrealism or not, you will find this fascinating show an amazingly comprehensive and ambitious look into the artists’ social world, history, culture, philosophy, and the powerful psychological influence of the nature of dreams on the creative works of the Surrealists. Featured are the works, techniques and compelling and universal social subject matter, including desire, androgyny, and transmutation, dealt with by over eighty artists, including, Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, Max Ernst, Edith Rimmington, Claude Cahun, Giorgio de Chirico, Man Ray, Andre Breton, Brassai, Wilfredo Lam, Yves Tanguy, Joan Miro, Alberto Giacometti, Dorothea Tanning, Andre Masson, Lenora Carrington, Kay Sage, Louise Bourgeois, as well as Surrealist inspired artists, Joseph Cornell, Louise Nevelson, revolutionary forbearer, Pablo Picasso and more in paintings, drawings, photos, sculptures, collages, writings, dioramas and films. Writer, Andre Breton began the Surrealist movement in 1924 with his Manifesto of Surrealism. In this historic time Surrealists were exploring being free in their expression by tapping into the artistic manifestations of dreams and the unconscious, simultaneously as Sigmund Freud’s exploration into the psychology of dreams and human nature. Breton sought to free the artist of “false rationality” through dreams.
One new thing I learned from this exhibit is that Surrealists’ films were greatly inspired by early Hollywood cinema. Film clips from iconic early films by Surrealists and ground-breaking filmmakers are being shown, including Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel’s, Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog), (1929), French director, Georges Milies’, Voyage Dans La Lune (A Trip to the Moon) (1902); German Expressionist, W. F. Murnau’s vampire film, Nosferatu (1922) and clips including Surrealist favorites, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and immortal cartoon character, Betty Boop. One room is completely dedicated to the game of Exquisite Corpse, one of the art games the Surrealists invented and loved to play together, similar to an old parlour game called Consequences. The artists and writers played either with words or drawings. In drawing, for example, several artists would get together with an accordion pleated blank sheet of paper and one by one draw their individual interpretations of a section of a body (hence the name Exquisite Corpse), with no one being able to see, as the paper was folded over to the next blank section etc. until three or four artists would have each drawn one section. When the paper was unfolded, there would appear an uncanny, Surrealist drawing made of distinctively different and disparate parts creating a serendipitously unified, dreamlike whole. Lots of fun to look at and romantic to think about in viewing these little gems on paper, off-handedly created by the likes of Salvador Dali, Joan Miro, Yves Tanguy, Andre Breton, Marcel Duchamp, etc. just playing around together, having a casually good time sitting around in cafés in Paris! The exhibit goes on and on for many rooms and is quite an ambitious undertaking. Plan on spending at least several hours to leisurely see the art and film clips and to absorb the tremendous amount of information being presented.
The most interesting thing I learned at the Surrealist show, which was being revealed for the first time at this exhibit, was that the European Surrealists were greatly inspired in their work by the indigenous artwork of First Nation British Columbian and Alaskan tribes, including the Yu’pik and Haida peoples and a number of their tribal art objects from the nineteenth and early twentieth century that the Surrealists collected and that were hung on their walls in Europe, are on display alongside their work. The Surrealists appreciated the authenticity and inventiveness found in First Nation works. These powerful and compelling objects include ceremonial masks, shields, headdresses, totems, carved wooden vessels and spoons. The otherworldly spirits in these pieces were sparks for the Surrealists’ affinity to revealing the unconscious mind and dream world through their art. How wonderful and exciting to see a show in which the essences of the local ancient peoples of the show’s surrounding area were so intrinsically and immediately linked with the art and philosophy of these European innovators in that particular period of human artistic history.
The art on display was gathered, on loan, from over eighty sources, including prominent private collections, galleries and from art museums including, The Guggenheim, The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, the Israel Museum, the Musee du quai Branly, the Centre Georges Pompidou and the Tate.
Do not miss this rare, stimulating and extremely educational exhibit! It is fabulous!
Edith Rimmington's, The Oneiroscopist, 1947, oil on canvas. Vera and Arturo Schwarz Collection of Dada and Surrealist Art in the Israel Museum. Photo copyright: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Claude Cahun's, Self Portrait (as weight trainer), 1927, photo, printed 2011, inkjet print, Jersey Heritage Collection
Kay Sage's, The Upper Side of the Sky, 1944, oil on canvas, The Vera and Arturo Schwartz Collection of Dada and Surrealist Art , the Israel Museum. Image copyright: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
All three images courtesy of The Vancouver Art Gallery .
Granville Island Public Market
While visiting Vancouver, a trip to the Granville Island Public Market, www.granvilleisland.com, is a must. There are food items available there that we never see in our own Pike Place Market, here in Seattle. There are the most amazing and delicious, exotic cheeses, meats and other specialty items from Europe, a wide and varied selection of fruits, vegetables, fresh fish, flowers and wonderful baked goods and prepared foods. If it’s a nice day, pick up your food supplies, go outside to the deck and have a leisurely lunch over picturesque False Creek. The Market is filled with open artists’ studios/shops, where artists create and sell their goods. These studios are subsidized by the government, allowing artists to thrive, with affordable rents. How enlightened! I wish our government would value the worth of artists with such importance and commitment. It’s wonderful to visit these studios, meeting the artists and seeing their workspaces filled with fine-crafted and unique goods and to wander through all the other small shops, listening to busking musicians along the way and spending a whole, relaxing day at the market.
Museum of Anthropology at University of British Columbia
A trip to the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, www.moa.ubc.ca, is in order. This beautifully designed, contemporary building, set on a cliff, with a breathtaking view, over the sea, has one of the most stunning and comprehensive permanent collections of Northwest Coast Native art work, including majestic Totem Poles set outside the museum, on the cliff. UBC also offers low cost accomodations for visitors during summer months.
West Fourth Avenue Community Business Destinations in Vancouver’s Kitsilano Neighborhood
Another destination for leisurely meandering in Vancouver is along West 4th Avenue, down the street from Jericho Beach Park. Head down this street, eastbound from the park and check out all the interesting small, independently owned shops, cafes and restaurants in the arty, Kitsilano neighborhood.
Banyen Books and Sound, 3608 W. 4th Ave., www.banyen.com, in business since 1970, is a wonderful, spiritually -oriented bookstore filled with books, CD’s, DVD’s, and beautiful goods to refresh the soul. It is also a community hub, where you can find lots of information about workshops, concerts and other events going on around Vancouver.
Amethyst Creations, 2746 W. 4th Ave., www.lapidary.bc.ca/dealers.html, with it’s purple storefront and charming, hand painted sign, is a great find for crystals and an exotic array of other minerals in their natural form, as well as stone beads and jewelry and has been an integral fixture in the neighborhood for years.
The Naam Restaurant, 2724 W. 4th Ave., www.thenaam.com, one of the great, iconic, community businesses in Vancouver, is the oldest natural foods restaurant in the city, serving delicious, reasonably priced vegetarian food for over forty three years, founded in 1968. The Naam is open twenty four hours a day, every day, except Christmas, has a wood burning fireplace, a garden patio (enclosed in winter) and features live blues, jazz or folk music, seven nights a week.
Head to Raviolino, 2822 W. 4th Ave., www.raviolino.shawbiz.ca, for a delightful and scrumptious lunch or early dinner of fresh, homemade ravioli, cannelloni, mezzaluna, pasta or tortellini, with delectable sauces. It is mostly set up for take out, but has a few tables and chairs for dining in house. This place is a real find and I never leave Vancouver without eating here! Run by a lovely couple, Giuseppe and Maria Frasca, he, an Italian, she, a Peruvian, their business first got started in Lima, Peru in 1982. They have been serving the Vancouver community since 2002. Maria brings a Peruvian touch, creating delicious, unusual desserts/baked goods from her culture, rarely available in the Northwest.
A long weekend in Vancouver, B.C. is recommended. It is simple, easy and inexpensive, yet rich and full, with a diverse variety of new, exciting and satisfying experiences.