One of the SBIA’s community greening programs, the Hastings Urban Tree Nursery, recently received an extra burst of colour. The ten concrete planters located within Strathcona (there are four more located in the Hastings Crossing area), were painted by five local artists to add vibrancy and artistic flair to the area. The City of Vancouver generously primed the planters, and sealed them when the paintings were complete. The sealant will make graffiti easier to remove, and it is hoped that the bright designs will also deter graffiti overall.
After a wide call for artists in August of 2014, we received eleven submissions from diverse artists across a wide range of styles. An evaluation committee made up of business owners along Hastings, the Executive Director of the Eastside Culture Crawl, and members of the SBIA Sustainability Committee, selected four out of the eleven submissions, and assigned one artist to each city block hosting planters. For the fifth block, we invited well-known local Aboriginal artist Jerry Whitehead to paint the final planter in the series. Planters were painted in the spring of 2015 once the winter weather dried up. Here is a list of the artists and the blocks of planters they each painted, moving from West to East along Hastings Street.
On the 300 block of E Hastings, at the planters being cared for by volunteers at the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), artist Christina Norberg painted abstract designs in watercolour-type hues. From her artist statement, Christina writes, “Using surreal, nature-inspired imagery, I create peaceful, uplifting places of wonder, to ponder life’s questions.” Photo credit: Christina Norberg.
On the 400 block of E Hastings, Jerry Whitehead produced one of his iconic murals depicting pow wow dancers encircling the tree planter. It is an eye-catching addition on the street, and rightly stands in front of the Vancouver Native Health Society space. Volunteers at VNHS care for the tree, and some days the staff meet outside around the tree for a smudging ceremony before starting their work. Jerry’s art studio is immediately across the street from the planter location – talk about local!
Continuing to the 500 block of E Hastings, there are two planters located in front of the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House. Emerging local muralist Blake Wydeman used a spray paint technique to depict berries native to the lower mainland. Blake writes, “Through the use of the bright, vibrant colours of the berries I hope to spark the interest of the public, especially youth, on the importance of growing and eating locally.?I also aim to interest the public in learning about indigenous foods used by the first nations people.” You can see more of Blake’s work further along E Hastings at the Hastings Sunrise Community Garden.
Planters located at Homesteader’s Emporium and Mission Possible on the 600 E Hastings block were painted by Zola Novak, an artist thoroughly embedded in the DTES. Zola works at Gallery Gatchet, teaches at Mission Possible Studioworks, and keeps extremely busy with lots of independent projects in the community where she also makes her home. She often paints from the unusual and engaging perspective of a flower, insect, or bird. The two murals Zola painted in the HUTN are one scene shown from different vantage points.?
The final block of Strathcona planters, on 700 E Hastings, was painted by noted Vancouver muralist Ola Volo. These trees are cared for by staff at Mikado Martial Art Supplies, Viva Refridgeration Services, and Bruce Carscadden Architect. Ola’s style is distinctly folkloric. She says, “Story telling and multiculturalism is the fundamental inspiration for my work. … My illustrative work often reflects and merges aspects of history, people, animals and traditions through folklore visualization.” Ola also recently painted a mural inside The Heatley, a restaurant located kitty corner from the three planters.