Victoria Unbuttoned: A Red-Light History of BC’s Capital City

April 30, 2021

A Book Review

by Janet Nicol

Linda J. Eversole’s second foray into the world of white female prostitution is now available in “Victoria Unbuttoned” as she continues her dogged research into the biographies of marginalized women. Eversole builds on her previous account about Stella, the “unrepentant madam” of early Victoria. My review in BC Studies is accessed at the link below and will appear in the journal’s printed version at a later date.

Celebrating Dundarave Print Workshop & Binning – a cultural mover and shaker

April 23, 2021

by Janet Nicol


April 16, 2021

A Whimsical Sculpture Warns of Asbestos Dangers


A seven-metre-high metal sculpture installed outdoors at the Vancouver Convention Centre will be sure to catch the eye of locals and tourists alike with its playful, wind-blown mobile of cups, spokes and wheels. But when viewers of the British Columbia Labour Heritage Centre (BCLHC) art project take a closer look, they will be in for a surprise.

“Wind Wheel Mobile” by Vancouver artist Doug Taylor has a very serious message: the art piece, scheduled to be unveiled this spring, is a memorial to workers who have died from asbestos-related illnesses. Once considered the “magic mineral,” asbestos is still the number one killer of BC workers, with 47 deaths in 2018 alone. Across North America, the mineral’s deadly fibres are responsible for 40 per cent of workplace deaths.

“We decided against a memorial that was traditional and sombre,” says Joey Hartman, Chair of the BCLHC and past president of the Vancouver & District Labour.  “Doug’s work is whimsical, light and kinetic. It will get people to pause and say ‘what is this?’” 

The full story is available on line at Our Times magazine –


Dundarave Print Workshop turns 50

April 3, 2021

A booklet gives the history of the workshop, written by Janet Nicol, designed and produced by Lone Tratt. $20 (TR Trades, Vancouver, 2021.)

Dundarave Print Workshop, a gallery-studio on Granville Island, celebrates 50 years as the oldest, continuous printmaking workshop in British Columbia. A limited edition history of the printmakers’ non-profit collective, with photographs and a cover print, is available for purchase at the front counter. Check hours of business at the DPW website. Also note: Copies also for sale on Granville Island at Malaspina Print Workshop, Opus Art Supplies and Upstart and Crow books.

Also watch for an upcoming on-line article in Montecristo magazine about the origins of the workshop out of a garage in the West Vancouver neighbourhood of Dundarave. Bert Charles Binning (1909-2976), a renowned artist and “mover and shaker”in Vancouver’s cultural community, was the driving force behind setting up the workshop, along with Wayne Eastcott, a professional artist, now residing in Japan.

Book review – Four Umbrellas

March 28, 2021

Four Umbrellas:  A Couple’s Journey into Young-Onset Alzheimer’s by June Hutton and Tony Wanless  Dundurn Press, 2020  

Reviewed by Janet Nicol

Caregiving for a spouse – as opposed to a parent – has its own specific stories and heartbreaks. June Hutton, a Vancouver-based novelist and teacher, has experienced both. The author’s mother had Alzheimer’s in her final years and then her spouse, Tony Wanless unknowingly was struck with “young-onset” Alzheimer’s prior to his retirement from the Vancouver Province, aged 53. Fourteen years would pass before Wanless received a diagnosis in 2017, allowing him and Hutton to fully understand his inexplicable episodes— such as when Wanless packed a suitcase with four umbrellas.

So begins my review of ‘Four Umbrellas’ for Senior Line magazine, March 2021 issue. The magazine is available in print at various locations in Vancouver and on-line at the Senior Line magazine website. (You can also click on hyperlink ‘Senior Line Archive’ below book cover image on this post.)

‘Zoom’ talk on Sybil

March 15, 2021

Join author and art historian Janet Nicol for a discussion of her book On the Curve:  The Life and Art of Sybil Andrews.  She and the curator, Jenelle M. Pasiechnik will be discussing the major themes of her book and the current exhibition.

Event time –   Saturday, March 27, 2021 at 2pm PDT (one hour)

Registration for this online ‘zoom’ event is now open at the Campbell River Art Gallery website.  

The talk is part of the CRAG exhibition (March 6 to May 1) and featuring Nicole Crouch, Karver Everson, Jake James, Kari Kristensen and Marni McMahan.  Each of these BC artists have produced new work in response to Sybil Andrews’ biographical history, aesthetic style and artistic practice.

Covid Chronicles

March 9, 2021

By Janet Nicol

A living history project by workers and the BC Labour Heritage Centre.

Canadians on the job during the COVID-19 pandemic are facing risks that workers faced a century ago when the Spanish flu swept the globe — but this time working people are telling their stories and people are listening, including volunteers at the BC Labour Heritage Centre, in Vancouver.

“It sets you to thinking about your own history,” says Marie Decaire, a member of the centre’s board who recently retired from her job at the Community Savings Credit Union. “My mother was born in the Kootenays around the time of the flu outbreak. She never mentioned the Spanish flu when I was growing up. And I never asked.”

Lasting from February 1918 to April 1920, the 1918 flu pandemic infected 500 million people, about a third of the world’s population at the time. Last year, Decaire researched Vancouver newspapers published in 1918 and she noticed how workers’ lives were rarely mentioned. She didn’t want the same thing to happen to workers and their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, and so she proposed an oral history project called “COVID Chronicles: Labour’s Story.”

“Workers’ voices need to be heard,” she says. “When I proposed the idea of collecting COVID stories, everyone loved it.”

So what are BC workers saying? Check out the latest issue of Our Times magazine to find out.

Our Times magazine, Winter 2021.

Working with Courage and Care

February 17, 2021

by Janet Nicol

“I love being a first responder and saving lives,” says mental health worker Brionne Kennedy in a telephone interview with Our Times. Trained in First Aid and a member of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Local 1004, she is employed with PHS Community Services Society, a charitable, non-profit in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. 

For the past three years she has worked at the Maple Hotel, which houses 70 residents. She works 12-hour shifts, three days a week, alongside one other co-worker. A single mother, Kennedy has been on personal leave since August 2020, and looks forward to returning to work soon.

For the full interview, go to the Our Times magazine website –

More of my stories about front line workers braving the pandemic – and the valuable work of the BC Labour Heritage Centre preserving this living history – coming soon in Our Times magazine, Winter 2021.

Brionne Kennedy (right) assists a Maple Hotel resident having trouble climbing the stairs after the elevator broke down, by offering to move his belongings to a vacant room on a lower floor. PHOTOGRAPH: JOSHUA BERSON

Gertrude’s House of Stone

January 29, 2021

by Janet Nicol

Schoolteacher Gertrude Lawson was mid-career when she designed and oversaw construction of her West Vancouver manor in 1939, among the few single women in British Columbia to ever hold a mortgage at that time.

Within the Scottish-style stone walls subsequently erected at 680 17th Street, Miss Lawson (as she was known to her many students) would harbour aging family members, rent rooms to an assortment of tenants, and host decades of social and artistic gatherings.

So begins a local history article about Gertrude Lawson’s house of stone in West Vancouver, published online in Montecristo magazine. (Link to full article below photo.)

Art for the Holidays

December 16, 2020

by Janet Nicol

From Winnipeg to Sydney on Vancouver Island, check out this holiday shopping round-up, available on-line at Galleries West magazine. (link below.) You will find great gift ideas based on my telephone interviews with gallery owners and artisan shop keepers across the West, all with the same message: shop local and support Canada’s art community.

Merry holidays and here’s to a bright 2021.

Sheena Lott, “Silence in the Snow,” no date; acrylic on canvas, 20″ x 20″ (courtesan Peninsula Gallery, Sidney, BC)