Days and Art at Vancouver General Hospital

I dread flying. (The fears stem from multiple days on a cross-country flight in a single engine Cessna…but, that’s another story.)

When I heard that one of my best friends, spiritual guides and artist-buddies was moving at warp speed toward death (as we all are), I had to fly.  It is with gratitude for a few people and circumstances and timing that I write these words down.  Everything lined up so that I could be with Bobbie.  Bob and I shared over twenty years of friendship and he inspired such rich and wonderful magic in my life.  It was an unwritten pact of sorts that led me to his bedside and into the wonderful circle of his family.

When we landed, I took words of a highly-traveled friend, Hollee, to heart and pretended, to some degree, that I was Dora the Explorer.  I had some reservations about flying into Vancouver, not being familiar with the ‘big’ city at all.  I had flown into Vancouver with a friend many years ago in order to enjoy a Dave Matthew’s Band concert and the Art Gallery, but hadn’t ever found my way around on my own.  So, on the advice of Hollee, I took my time finding my way to the Canada Line, enjoying the beautiful art displayed throughout the airport.  Bob would have loved that I did this.

I successfully found my way to the Broadway/City Hall stop and then began my short walk to the hospital.

Peter met me at the elevator on the 16th floor of the Palliative Care Unit, after a convoluted wandering of the hospital, having thought I would find Bob on the eleventh floor. When I stepped around the corner and into Bob’s room, his arms extended and opened up to me.  The embrace of two old friends was delicious.  He uttered his delight and I parked my bag.  I knew that I would make this room my home for the coming days, although Bronwyn had graciously offered me a bed.

I write this post to celebrate the type of care and the environment where Bob spent his last days.  The Palliative Care unit was exceptional.  It was a comfortable space for both residents and families.  And there was art…everywhere!  Referred to as the VGH/ UBC Hospital Foundation Art Collection, the collection gave me the opportunity to disappear into various visual experiences throughout my stay.

“We are grateful to our donors for their contributions to this innovative program,” says Dr. Bev Spring, a physician with the Palliative Care Unit at VGH. “Art helps to create an atmosphere aesthetically and attitudinally where emotional and physical healing can happen. This is important for the heart and soul of the hospital – and the hearts and souls of those who find themselves on the giving or receiving end of care here: patients, their families and staff alike.”

I collected a series of photographs…none of them great, because I was so impressed.  I wasn’t in Vancouver for site seeing or for a vacation.  And yet, the space where my dear friend spent his last days was absolutely beautiful.  I’m so grateful for that.  This post is written in order to celebrate Bob’s life.  He held, in his imagination, such knowledge, practice and understanding of place, aesthetics and image-making.  This collection would have awed  him.

I sat through the wee hours of morning on August 20th and felt an overwhelming peace.  Of course, I was weary, but I was and am so grateful for the people who are in my circle.  I am so blessed.  Bob was a gentle and kind man.  His spirit lives.


Love Art in Calgary: Eighth Avenue Place

From the Danish Canadian Club, our group managed its way around/through a bit of a crane obstacle course and headed in to the most opulent of towers,  Eighth Avenue Place (EAP).  I have to say that the maneuvering and laughter just made the entire experience more fun!  Look at the size of these cranes!

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Our fearless leader gives her apologies...

Our fearless leader gives her apologies…


Belay on!

P1140863 P1140867Gordon Menzies, General Property Manager, was inside to greet us and fully prepared with an excellent presentation about Calgary’s premier office tower where wonderful art collides with world-class design!  My writing about this experience will cover three separate posts because there were three distinct art happenings within this same venue.

To begin, my readers may wish to follow this link and read about the first-class collection of Canadian modern art that is exquisitely displayed on the first floor.

One of my favourite Canadian artists is Jack Shadbolt.  In fact, one of my most important art history papers was written about Shadbolt. It was a dream to turn a first corner in EAP and be visually confronted by these panels titled Wild Grass Suite – Quintet!

P1140868 P1140872Next, Jack Bush‘s work!  His piece, New York 55 (1955) is outstanding!  I am rarely featured in any tour photographs because generally, I am the monkey behind the camera, but in this case, I insisted that Wendy snap a couple.

P1140885 P1140886Kath and Jack Bush 2Another one of the Painter’s Eleven, Ray Mead’s Totem (1986) is a beautiful painting to see in such a well lit and welcoming location at the front desk.  Given my father’s service in the RCAF, I am particularly interested in the fact that Ray Mead served in the RAF and that he was born into a Watford family, where my own daughter met, fell in love with and married her husband.

P1140878 P1140874Next, I was aghast to see a Jean-Paul Riopelle piece titled Oliviers (1966).  Who would have thought?  This brought up recollections of gallery-viewing in both Quebec City and Montreal when I did a cross Canada gallery trip some years back.  How surprising that Riopelle should be found in Eighth Avenue Place in Calgary, Alberta!

P1140881 P1140883Next, Le Climat Rouge (1957) by Jean McEwen RCA.  Wendy was captured, seated before this one and looking like she is a part of the painting.  At each stop, the conversations continued about the art, the framing and about all other related topics.

P1140887Wendy and Jean McEwenFinally, Marcelle Ferron’s Chile (1973) exploded with colour.  I was glad to see that a female painter of the automatiste style was represented here.

P1140892To conclude this portion of our EAP tour, Gordon Mensies pointed out several settings of furniture designed by Arnee Jacobsen, Earo Saarinen and Florence Knoll.  A concern for a beautiful aesthetic was evident throughout the space.


Arne Jacobsen 3300 Chair (1956)

Arne Jacobsen 3300 Chair (1956)

Oval Coffee Table (1956) Eero Saarinen

Oval Coffee Table (1956) Eero Saarinen

Much gratitude to Gordon Menzies who came in on a Saturday to expand our knowledge and to enjoy the aesthetic of such an amazing tower.

A fabulous article, accompanied by beautiful photographs is written by Richard White on his blog titled Everyday Tourist.  Visit this write up, from the perspective of a clearly educated gentleman, here.