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ART RETURNS: After a four-year hiatus, Art for Life returned. Vancouver Friends for Life’s marquee event for 21 years, the event engaged the local arts community — artists, galleries, and private collectors — to donate works to one of the foremost charity art auctions in Vanhattan. During its run, Art for Life raised an impressive $3 million to support the society’s efforts to better the lives of individuals suffering from life-threatening illnesses through complementary health services, counselling, and meal programs.
Friends for Life started in the 1990s helping people with HIV/AIDS and opened its doors at the Diamond Centre for Living in the city’s West End. But as medical advances improved treatment and life expectancy of people living with the disease, revenues for the society began to declined. Over the years, the organization faced challenges in the areas of staffing, fundraising, and program delivery and for a period of time suspended operations.
In partnership with the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation, Art for Life was resurrected. Leading the remount was executive directors Jesse Brown from Friends for Life and Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation’s Scott Elliott. Hundreds packed The Permanent Building to imbibe in great food and drink and bid on 44 works of art for sale in the silent and live auction. While many did not meet or exceed the donated pieces estimated values, collectively more than $185,000 was reportedly raised with plans already underway to bring the event back for 2020.
Among the artists who gave of their time and talent: Dana Claxton, Attila Lukacs, Paul Mathieu, Christian Nicolay, Paul Wong, John Ferrie, Shannon Belkin and Angela Grossman.
“It has been a wonderful experience reconnecting with the artist community on this cherished event. Their excitement for the return of Art For Life translated into immense generosity and fun,” said Kate Lade, Director of Development at the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation.
Vancouver Heritage Awards
PRESERVING HISTORY: Yours truly along with city councillor Colleen Hardwick served as master of ceremonies at the 2019 City of Vancouver Heritage Awards. Heritage preservation was front and centre as projects and special achievements were honoured at the awards presentation staged at the refurbished Permanent Loan and Bank Building on West Pender Street in Vancouver. Individuals, architects, engineers and developers were lauded for their outstanding work preserving and documenting Vancouver’s history.
Held every two years, the awards are given in recognition of individuals and groups involved in protecting and promoting heritage within the city. In total, 21 recipients were recognized this year in three categories: honour, merit, and recognition.
Among the projects receiving accolades: the restoration of structural and design elements of the Burrard Street Bridge; seismic upgrading and exterior rehabilitation of Strathcona Elementary School, and the relocation and rehabilitation of The Dorothies, twin Tudor homes built in 1931 that were plucked from their Kerrisdale foundations and moved several blocks up the street.
Carol Lee’s Chinatown barbecue restaurant was also honoured. Bringing Hong Kong-style barbecue back to Chinatown, Lee’s effort was praised for translating intangible cultural values into a physical setting with economic benefits.
After seeing the gradual shuttering of once-beloved restaurants in the historic neighbourhood, Lee — daughter of famed developer Bob Lee — stepped up, investing money and energy to bring back some of the neighbourhood’s charm and businesses.
Chinatown barbecue is one of three Chinese restaurants the UBC and Harvard grad plans to open, as well as a 230-unit social housing project on Hastings Street.
Event producer and heritage consultant Elana Zysblat congratulated Formwerks President Lyle Richards on the firm’s winning work rehabilitating the Macken Residence on West 15th Avenue. Photo: Fred Lee.
Vancouver Chinatown Foundation Spring Banquet
STORIES FROM CHINATOWN: Weeks later, Lee would front her third annual Chinatown Foundation Spring Banquet. To illustrate the Chinese Canadian journey the Chinatown Storytelling Centre would be the project of focus at this year’s community friend-raiser. Scheduled to open this fall, the Pender Street gallery will illustrate the arduous path of Chinese immigrants to Canadian citizenship and the intersections of Chinatown with other communities.
Presented by Vancity, and chaired by Bill Yee and Maggie Ip, two Vancouverites who have also contributed significantly to Chinatown’s history, nearly 700 guests — young and old — packed the Floata Restaurant to enjoy a ten-course Chinese dinner and support Lee’s crusade to revitalize the neighbourhood and preserve its cultural heritage. They would add to the millions Lee has already drummed up from her two fundraisers a year to support the foundation’s work.
Leading the storytelling effort is Wallace Chung, another prominent figure in the Chinese community. A lifelong passion for Chinese Canadian history, Chung has donated more than 25,000 books and printed materials and 1,750 artifacts from an extraordinary private collection reflecting his personal fascination with the CPR and its fleet of steamships to the UBC Library.
Chung is backed by an impressive advisory board that includes Lieutenant-Governor Janet Austin, SFU Chancellor Anne Giardini, UBC Ambassador Wendy Yip, former Emily Carr University president Rob Burnett, VGH UBC Hospital Thoracic surgeon Dr. John Yee and Banff Centre vice-president Howard Jang.
“From stories of entrepreneurship like Moderize Tailor, where Bill Wong once tailored suits for Sean Connery to accomplishments by barrier breakers such as Douglas Jung, a Second World War veteran and the first visible minority to be elected to the Canadian Parliament, it was through the unwavering tenacity of Chinese Canadians that Vancouver’s Chinatown became an epicentre of both social change and cultural preservation,” says Lee.
“These stories of hope and resilience need to be shared to acknowledge the value of inclusivity and diversity and to inspire gratitude, courage and strength for generations to come.”
Stephen and Grace Kwok’s Anson Realty was among a dozen firms that stepped up to support the efforts of the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation. Photo: Fred Lee.