A couple of weeks ago I was walking my dog Dexter late at night. We walked up to Hastings Street so I could drop off some library books at the Hastings branch (not overdue for once). We continued west to the CIBC at the corner of Penticton and Hastings. Dexter stopped to sniff around. This is one of his spots. I often tie him up there on the little patch of grass while I run into get some cash from the bank machine.
This night the grass was all fenced up with one of those orange, plastic mesh fences used to temporarily block access to a construction site. It was hard to see but I could glimpse new circular benches that looked woven out of tree branches. I thought “Alastair has been here!”
Alastair Heseltine is an artist, who sculpts using natural materials. I love his work. A few years ago I organized a learning party where he guided us in weaving a living willow fence. I figured he was involved in creating the benches:
There was also a description posted of the project which I read by the streetlight.
SEED: habitat + migration is a neighbourhood public art project that uses local bird habitat as a framework for engaging participants in sharing their own experiences of migration.
Led by Artists Jaimie Robson and Alison Maddaugh, the project will reclaim and re-activate an underused corridor of grass located at East Hastings Street at Penticton. The ubiquitous lawn boulevard at this site will betransformed it into a green respite in this commercial urban setting. This vibrant landscape will address project themes of migration and change, while attracting pollinators and providing bird habitat. Custom street furnishings featuring neighbourhood anecdotes about migration and neighbourhood change will provide a place for pause to pedestrian shoppers, and local passersby.
That’s art speak! What I took from it was that that little patch of lawn was now a park with really cool benches and plants chosen to welcome birds and pollinators (bees etc). Somehow stories of people in the neighbourhood who had “migrated” would be featured too. Migration as a way of thinking about being a newcomer to Canada…
Last Sunday there was an opening ceremony for the park. I stopped by, again with Dexter, and enjoyed a free cup of coffee and conversation. I read some snippets of resident’s migration stories etched into the concrete at the centre of the benches. I found out that this was a project by the artists at Media Undefined. I remember their work a few years ago in Our Community Story. I listened to long-time residents tell stories of the neighbourhood at ‘listening stations’, complete with recorders and headphones, at The Laughing Bean and Sorrento barbers.
This was just after I moved to Hastings Sunrise and it gave me a sense of the history of my new neighbourhood. I already was in love with it; taking my son Harry to Sorrento barbers for his haircuts,
sitting on the hill at the Hastings Park watching the horses run, mostly gazing at Burrard Inlet and the North Shore mountains beyond,
buying cheese at Tevere (gone due to the London Drugs expansion but not forgotten) Ugo and Joe’s, Bianca Maria, bbq pork buns and fruity cakes from Pine House bakery and grocery shopping at Donald’s, my favourite grocery store ever because of the food, its closeness to my home but most of all to the lovely, friendly staff.
(I really should have a picture of Carmen Louie here “The cashier with the longest line-ups and most friends“. I felt like I’d really arrived when she greeted me by name.)
The artists at Media Undefined helped to frame my experience and sense of history of where I’ve lived the last seven years. I’m grateful for their work.
Wander by the new park and peek inside the benches to read some of our resident’s migration stories. You can also explore more of their community artistry at http://www.mediaundefined.ca/