Rubbing Shoulders with Art Ghosts

Down this historic alley in Victoria, British Columbia, there is a door to my past. Yesterday, I strolled along on a quiet January Monday rubbing shoulders with the ghosts of time. 



Sure enough, the name of my favourite art teacher is still on the door of his old studio. For a moment, the door opens in my mind. 

We shuffle up the steep steps with our portfolios, arrange ourselves elbow to elbow on the easels provided. We take off layers and visit companionably while we wait for the model. I search the room to see if I can discern what this brilliant teacher has been painting this week. The room is crowded but organized for working. There is the scent of charcoal dust, oil paint, wax and old brick building. Warm lights shine on the platform in the middle of the room and the space heater glows. Then, just as the model takes her first short pose and the teacher gives us his instructions in brief, often unfinished, sentences… the image fades. 

The door reappears. Solid. Closed as a tomb entrance to a treasure buried in a past life. 

Glenn Howarth 1946 – 2009 

Glenn Howarth taught seminars and courses at art schools and universities across Canada after he graduated from UVic’s Visual Arts program. In 1987, he began the Victoria Drawing Academy in his studio in Fan Tan Alley. Howarth participated in both group and solo shows across the country and represented Canada at the Sao Paulo Biennale in 1982 and at Expo 86. (UVic legacy gallery)

I am so ever grateful to have taken several classes with him in the early 2000s. He refined my understanding of what happens between our subject, our bodies as the artist and that of the viewer in profound ways that I am still exploring. 

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Photographic tribute to oldest Chinatown in Canada

Fan Tan Alley, Victoria, British Columbia

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According to the research of professor David Chuenyan Lai, Victoria’s Chinatown is the oldest in Canada and the only one in North America to retain its 19th-century townscape. It is the second oldest Chinatown in North America after San Francisco’s.

Retaining the townscape hasn’t been easy. As some parts are being repaired.

(These men are throwing, and catching, balls of cement to repair the top-side of this entry way.)

Other parts are awaiting new construction.

And still others are under construction.

The morning delivery of fresh fruit and vegetables…

has been happening for as long as the history in these roof lines.

The Gate of Harmonious Interest constructed at Fisgard and Government in 1981 seems most appropriate.

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The discovery of gold in the Fraser Canyon in 1858 plus famine, drought and war in their homeland led Chinese citizens to immigrate across the Pacific Ocean to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Chinatown grew steadily over the years until its peak in 1911 (3,158 people), at which time it occupied an area of about six city blocks in the north end of downtown Victoria.

Sprout Question: Is there an urban street that inspires your imagination and creativity?

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From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada