Posted by: Brandon Yan | December 21, 2011

The Great Vancouver Paint-In: Let’s Do It Again!

The Great Vancouver Paint-In is one of my favourite history items that no one in Vancouver really knows about (I’ve written a bit about it before). I think it’s an important one and one that may need to be repeated.

In April of 1966, artists from across the city gathered at the courthouse (now the Vancouver Art Gallery) and went to work paint the hoardings that surround the construction of the centennial fountain. The artists were invited and encouraged by Mayor Bill Rathie (to raise the ire of the Premier). Rathie was somewhat upset at the construction of the ‘secret’ fountain in such a central and integral public space with very little public input.

Behind the fountain was Premier W. A. C. Bennett. He refused to let anyone see the designs and put up the hoarding so no one could see it until it was complete. The Paint-in made the public space public again and in a way, it was a very successful (and simple) case of public engagement. Crowds of up to 700 amassed to see the paintings and painters in action. It was widely covered by the media (even internationally!). In this newspaper article, one woman lamented: “Everything is going to be so dull when it’s over.” Was she ever right.

When I passed the Art Gallery the other day, I saw that the great steps, formerly the grand entrance to the Courthouse on the Georgia Street side, were fenced off. I assume it’s to dissuade people from using them (re: Occupy Vancouver). Here’s how it looks when I walked by:

Public Space?

I think it’s time for an intervention in a very important public space in Vancouver. How about a paint-in? Public art as expression, as protest. How about? Leave a comment if you’re interested.

The Vancouver Archives finally has some more photos digitized from one of their private collections. Take a step back in time:


This article was re-posted from Brandon Yan’s Masters Planning Blog.



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