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Burrard Marina Field House

Shaun Dacey

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Derya Akay, Burrard Marina Fieldhouse Residency, Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, 2017. Photo: Derya Akay

Located on the second floor of a marina under the Burrard Bridge is an apartment, once the residence of the marina’s caretaker. This one bedroom, with a simple kitchen and a large deck with views of the Vancouver skyline, was awarded to CAG as part of a city-wide initiative by the Vancouver Parks Board to situate artists-in-residence in parks across Vancouver.

From 2013–16, I managed this space, Burrard Marina Field House Studio (BMFH), as an artist residency. We envisioned the program as a space to host artists towards the ideation and development of projects specific to Vancouver. We invited artists whose practices focused on engagement and collaboration with Vancouverites, and who were invested in learning from others and interested in Vancouver as a complicated, dynamic and diverse network of communities.

Being new to the gallery at the time, this programming was in direct response to my perceptions of CAG as a privileged and cloistered space. The field house was an opportunity to build new relationships and meet new friends. BMFH was an evolving site of community play and conversation outside of the formalities of the gallery. Projects were intimate, conversational and collaborative.

The Field House quickly became a place to gather. Hosting neighbours, friends and colleagues for meals became a key aspect to every residency. Breaking bread together was a way to welcome new artists and host lively conversations. For a few of the artists, the harvesting, preparation and sharing of food was the core work of their residency.

Australian artist Keg DeSouza produced a series of projects exploring food as a metaphor for urban displacement in Vancouver. In 2015, she hosted Preservation, an urban foraging expedition and jam-making workshop. The event connected the prevalence of non-native blackberries under the bridge with the invasiveness of colonialism. Keg worked with Lori Snyder, an Indigenous Herbalist, and her partner Steve Snyder, a master jam maker. Lori led a walk under the bridge discussing the indigenous blackberry, the introduced blackberry and other native plants. Participants then foraged the area for invasive wild Himalayan blackberries. The next day, Steve led a jam making session with the collected berries. While communally making jam on the field house deck, discussion focused on the act of preserving these locally dominant berries, questioning whose culture is in fact preserved and creating labels for the jam jars sharing aspects of the community conversation.

For local artists, the Field House was a site for them to embark on deep forays into understanding our city. For their residence, Derya Akay invited local immigrant women Elders from a range of cultural backgrounds to explore and share local and diasporic culinary traditions through a series of public meals. These gatherings were an opportunity for  storytelling and shared memories through communal eating. Akay hosted four meals ranging from Bulgarian and Punjabi cuisines to a traditional Jewish shabbat dinner at the Peretz Jewish Centre. In advance, Derya would meet their collaborators and learn from them about the food they love to make. They would plan a meal, shop together and on the day of the meal prepare it together.

One meal Derya organized was with Hayat Shabo, a chef originally from Damascus and a recent immigrant to Vancouver who had fled the civil war in her home country. Hayat, a chef from one of Damascus’ top hotels, demonstrated how to prepare traditional kibbeh. She invited her guests to help out by forming and molding the meat and grain kibbeh. Hayat was a member of Tayybeh, a catering business that offers employment opportunities to newcomer Syrian women. The word “tayybeh” in Arabic is the feminine construction that means “kind,” and in the colloquial Levantine dialect means “delicious.”

Derya’s meal with Hayat was like being at a friend’s for dinner. It was without pretension or decorum. It was simply a gathering of friends and neighbours. The field house felt like a reprieve from the social austerity of working in the gallery. It provided a space without so many expectations, instead offering a platform of intimacy, care, and support.

Shaun Dacey

Shaun Dacey is a ninth-generation settler from the Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit. He is currently living in the unceded and ancestral territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and səlilwətaɬ Nations. Shaun is currently Director at Richmond Art Gallery, where he has curated numerous exhibitions considering the specific histories and cultural contexts of Richmond, BC with artists such as Ho Tam, Karilynn Ming Ho, Karen Tam, Jon Sasaki, and Brendan Fernandes. Dacey holds a Master’s degree in Critical and Curatorial Studies from the University of British Columbia, and has written for various publications including e-flux and BlackFlash, among others. As CAG’s Curator of Learning and Public Programming, 2013–2014, and Curator, 2015–2016, Shaun produced a range of exhibitions, educational initiatives and off-site projects. He developed CAG’s Burrard Marina Field House Studio residency program, nurturing expansive projects with artists such as Krista Belle Stewart, Keg de Souza, Maddie Leach, Walter Scott, Marie Lorenz, Jerome Havre, and Sameer Farooq.