Coming home from work later than normal a few months ago, I was greeted by a massive LED-lighted cross spelling out the words EAST VAN as I traveled over Main Street and made my way towards home on the eastside. Damn, an awesome sight to behold. But I wondered where the hell it came from, and for what purpose it was towering over my neighbourhood. At first, all I could come up with was the Olympics, that shit-show of corporate greed and nationalism wrapped up in the cloak of so-called amateur sport. But who the hell from the Olympic Committee would pick this symbol I wondered? And are such neighbourhood markers going up around the city to highlight the diverse little places that make up Vancouver? But it seemed too permanent for the Vancouver Binennale - a bi-annual showcase that installs works in various media as a celebration of public art.
Turns out, it’s a little of both – a public art venture about neighbourhood markings funded through Olympic dollars granted to the city for the arts. And I suppose, if something had to come from dirty money, this is almost as good as it gets in terms of a “line in the sand” between us and them.
This piece by Ken Lum is the artist’s homage to his neighbourhood, to what we locals call ‘the republic of east van’, to the place and people this little blog celebrates. At some 60 feet high Lum’s East Van cross sits near the corner of Clark Drive and Great Northern Way, marking the spot where Vancouver’s major trucking route cuts between this fast-gentrifying neighbourhood (once and still belonging to immigrants and labourers) and the Finning Lands – a long-time industrial wasteland being re-made as a multi-institutional post-secondary campus. It’s generated a lot of buzz, this cross.