While Vancouver might be one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in, some of its richest cultural experiences are for free. We’re referring to its 300-odd outdoor artworks, primarily supported by the metropolis’ Public Art Programs. Spanning traditional and new media, the contemporary collection features creations by emerging and established artists. There’s no dearth of organised bike tours; albeit steeply priced. It’s wiser to hire a bike and discover the myriad sculptures and murals on your own. Here are a few tips to get you on your way.
The waterfront stretch from Devonian Harbour Park to Canada Place on the edge of Gastown is a good area to spot some popular public art. A lot of these installations were erected before the 2010 Winter Olympics. Of note, is Canadian novelist Douglas Coupland’s LEGOesque sculpture of an 8-bit whale, titled ‘Digital Orca’, located adjacent to the Vancouver Convention Centre. A five-minute detour from Devonian Harbour is Stanley Park. Therein lies the First Nations totem poles at Brockton Point, carved around the 1880s. Each pole’s historic significance is explained via interpretive panels. West of the downtown peninsula, is the English Bay Inukshuk, the 2010 Winter Olympics emblem, designed by local artist Elena Rivera MacGregor. The giant stone cairn is said to be an ancient symbol of friendship.
While in town, stop by 2014-2016 Vancouver Biennale that has transformed the city into an open-air design museum of sorts showcasing buzz-worthy sculptures, new media and performance art by international artists. December 2014 saw the unveiling of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s installation, ‘F Grass’, in Harbour Green Park at Coal Harbour. Comprising industrial cast-iron blades of grass that have been arranged to form a calligraphic ‘F’. The artwork is said to represent the relationship between the individual and the collective. Keep an eye out for new works at the ongoing art show at vancouverbiennale.com. Alternatively, navigate your way across the city’s artworks via the City Of Vancouver’s public art registry that lets you browse by neighbourhood, artist or artworks.