In case you've been out having a groovy life in the sunny Okanagan (which would by no means be the reason behind this article's tardiness), we've compiled a few of the noteworthy happenings of the past week. This local news week was a little slow, but of course housing and taxes never fail to stay hot, a few downtown businesses see some changes, and if you haven't been yet, we talk about the happening printmaking art exhibition at the Kelowna Art Gallery.
Printmaking "Impresses" in the Okanagan
Last week we wrote about the idea of public art and its potential to get folks talking about it in the public sphere. That art, while requiring insanely special and refined talent, focus, and a line into meanings and stories deeper than our everyday grind allow us, should still not be pretentious or far removed from the society or individuals it seeks to affect.
So we are happy to see how the Okanagan Print Triennial exhibition here at the Kelowna Art Gallery (on until May 27th) has created an opportunity for us the public, to witness how our young printmaking artists-in-training are being inspired and taught. According to UBCO's Printmaking instructor, Briar Craig, the genus for this exhibition (it's on its fourth iteration) was to be able to show young apprentices top Canadian and international printmaking works "live". In the spirit of creating a stronger art and printmaking community, they have taken top juried printmakers from the local scene along with internationally renowned ones, in an effort to participate in the international triennials or biennials printmaking scene. Triennials are competitions – how much more democratic and popular-focussed can art get? It's like sports!
Printing is such a specialized art process that most of us don't really understand much of it beyond the basics. Here we get the opportunity to view the work of many methods, from intaglio (the opposite of relief - cool!) to lithography, to lino and woodcut, and beyond.
I love this exhibit because it revealed that printmaking today is as varied right now as it has been over the years (from fine detailed 15th century etchings to anti-war expressionism). I came for the bold subversive WPA-looking posters of Erica Walker, but was also wooed by the detailed ephemeral meanings washing around in the Noordermeer lithograph, or the surprising power of a realistic representation (never usually my bag) that jolted me into someone else’s reality in a hurry (Darian Goldin Stahl's "Vital Gowns").
At its essence, printing is about impressing an artifact onto a canvas in order to create another artifact, and in most cases to do so over and over again, so it's no surprise that many of the artists here are interested in the idea of replication and the print medium itself: how changing forms of reproduction affect each other, replace each other, how the tactile art of “impressing” makes ideas real, while others are into subverting its historical commercial and ideological uses (as the winner of the contest did).
Erica Walker was the winner of the Triennial, garnering her an upcoming full exhibit. Her pieces subvert the way progress has been promoted and championed like it's the national brand of North America. As if we need to consistently remind ourselves we're doing good. Full steam ahead no matter who gets trampled or left behind. Her posters evoke WPA propaganda of the "Loose Lips Sink Ships" type – also why is government propaganda of yesteryear so damn wonderful looking?
I'm a block, lino and woodcut freak - those muscular and crude shapes with no mercy for do-overs, looking all the more intentional in their bluntness, their inability to be smooth – powerful stuff. A perfect medium to depict our ever-present local concern with fire. Josh Winkler's block print titled "Fire" explores his themes of "disconnect between contemporary Americans and the history of the land" – something our colonial and industrial history in BC is attempting to reckon with.
Herman Noordermeer's print "Me and ?" is extremely frail and evocative, with what felt like many possible meanings. Interestingly the human skin picks up the look of a limestone litho stone. The photographic impression is interestingly so real yet so manipulated, revealing the symbolic work that goes into creating "reality". Noordermeer says he is into how "not only the idea but also the way of giving concrete form to the idea is what makes it interesting. The different layers of meaning that originate in this way emphasize the symbolic character of the images".
Here's a few more beauties, but really just go. All the prints are unframed and you can experience the printed transfer yourself – it's really cool. As Craig says the only challenges this art form faces is getting the word out. It's accessible, powerful, and attracts world class talent (especially given it's relatively low cost to ship and mount), so you're going to get a top notch exhibition that will appeal to a wide cross-section of folks. We just need to spread the word – ironic for a form that is all about reproducing ideas.
You can join Professor Briar Craig for a printmaking open house at UBCO on May 17th to see first-hand how a lithograph is made; how an etching plate is printed; how a screen print is created – and much more!
Guys, Did You Hear? There's a Rental Market Boom!
The talk of purpose-built rentals and rental zonings has really entered the BC housing discussion of late. While some conservative voices over at a recent UDI panel warned of impending slums, many pragmatic types are getting projects off the ground to fill real market demand for regular Joes and Joannes who can't get anywhere near the almost seven figure price tag (and almost so in Kelowna).
Apparently according to a Kelowna Capital News headline last Friday, we have a rental boom. The City of Kelowna revealed that we have 1,479 rental units under construction right now with more to come. This is great, this is needed, this has also been lamented as an unfortunately slow way to bring housing online and cool the market (as opposed to bringing existing vacant units online). But this is not something you can call a boom when renters are showing up cash in hand to enter bidding wars in order to land one of the few available rental vacancies in town. Nor is it a rental boom when hundreds of long-term renters literally just got the boot from airbnb-hungry landlords who only rent out long-term from September to May, unless we're talking about a short-term holiday rental boom, which is not exactly news.
Purpose-built rentals can be profitable for developers filling demand, and probably even more so when luxury condos are being taxed for being cash stashes or investment properties for out-of-towners. The argument the Capital News piece makes however is that all the developers keen to get in on creating rental housing are somehow being hurt by the speculation tax. This one makes no sense since anyone who rents out long-term is exempt which would be the case here. The article then jumps to the land transfer tax being the drag on the building industry and cites developer Highstreet Ventures whose West Kelowna condo development is not exactly marketed as a purpose-built rental. This makes no sense either because that is the measure that was enacted to deter flipping, not building: that tax kicks in on the sale of a property. It's just shocking how dumb they think we are – this is fear mongering and obfuscation done poorly. Masquerading condo investment properties as creating real rental vacancies, and anti-flipping measures as a penalty on the cost of construction is at best an intentionally super-loose definition of cost, and at worst, a joke.
It is as if such arguments presuppose that the units be flipped, pre-sale or post, in order to drive up the value enough to make it especially lucrative for the developers and investors. So they're frustrated when the government puts the housing availability needs of locals above their right to make unfettered profits based on nothing more than heated and often manipulated bidding markets and financialized value. What's another word for that? Oh yeah speculation. It's certainly not tied to their value of filling the unprecedented massive market demand for shelter (if you don't have an account to access the Globe & Mail inquiry's revelations in the link above, here's a Bloomberg summary of it). Maybe they're just a little jumpy about the inevitable upcoming crackdown on pre-sale shadow flipping and will have to make their flipping-induced returns the slower, taxed way.
Comings and Goings
Soon you'll have another Starbucks drive thru that you can idle in while you wait for the person in front of you to receive their Venti, sugar-free, non-fat, vanilla soy, double shot, decaf, no foam, extra hot, white chocolate mocha with light whip and extra syrup. The coffee chain recently submitted a development permit application to the city asking for permission to renovate the former Carl's Jr. location on Harvey that closed in autumn 2016, and has sat vacant since.
Tree Brewing is moving its production facilities (not the brew pub's facilities on Water St.) to Vancouver in an initiative with Big Rock Brewing, but you Hopheads need not worry, they promise that in terms of recipes and quality "nothing will change". Big Rock Brewery and Fireweed Brewing – the parent company of Tree Brewing, as well as Dukes Cider and Shaftebury Brewing – have a joint venture agreement to jointly run and brew at Big Rock’s Vancouver facility, which is currently being renovated to include a canning line and new equipment to increase brewing capacity to 26,000 hectolitres. A separate contract agreement will see Tree brands brewed at Big Rock’s Calgary plant for the Alberta market. Calgary's Big Rock has a brewery and eatery in Vancouver so this resource-sharing plan obviously benefits them both in the competitive "craft" beer market.
The beloved Kelowna charcuterie boite, Salted Brick went under new ownership last September and it has now gone through a bit of a remodel and been relaunched as Salt & Brick. We just wrote a post on the relaunch and some upcoming opening festivities. And wait there's more, their sister restaurant Bacaro is about to undergo an even bigger conceptual rebrand: as Jacks Pizza and Liquor – stay tuned for deets!
Instagram of the Week
Summerland's Okanagan Crush Pad, known for their cutting edge production facilities, amazing bubbly and of course their Haywire and Narrative wines, have a new vineyard under their belt.
We are excited to share that we have acquired Secrest Mountain Vineyard in Oliver, BC. Secrest is a cool high altitude vineyard that we have been fortunate to lease from the Wise family since 2010. The acquisition of this property allows us to continue offering many of the special wines that you have to come to know and love like the Haywire Gamay and Narrative Red and White blends. We thank Brad and Dave Wise for working with us to transition to organic certification and look forward to working with the existing crew to complete the process :camera_with_flash: @lionel_trudel