Vancouver Foundation – history research project

April 8, 2019

In 2017, I was contracted by the Vancouver Foundation, Canada’s largest community foundation, to research its 75 year history,  spanning the war era to present times. The foundation has mentored dozens of other community foundations and continues to make a difference with programs such as Neighbourhood Small Grants (encouraging interaction among urban residents) and Fostering Change (supporting  youth in foster care).

Here’s a Vancouver Foundation history timeline, highlighting some of their key contributions.   (This PDF version can be enlarged by clicking on the downloaded image.)

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Back to Bloody Saturday – book review

March 31, 2019

1919: A Graphic History of the Winnipeg General Strike
By the Graphic History Collective and David Lester, with an introduction by James Naylor

Toronto: Between the Lines Books, 2019
$19.95 / 9781771134200

Reviewed by Janet Mary Nicol

David Lester, a Vancouver-based illustrator, writer, and musician, has a keen interest in history with social justice themes. The Listener (Arbeiter Ring, 2011), among his most notable graphic novels, is a gripping story that moves between Germany during the rise of fascism in the 1930s and the contemporary life of a woman artist. In this most recent book, 1919: A Graphic History of the Winnipeg General Strike, Lester re-visits an important event in Canadian history, employing a simpler linear narrative and emphasizing artfully executed black and white drawings. As a result, a new generation is introduced to a tumultuous event a century ago, when more than 30,000 strikers battled police, vigilantes, and the government in May and June on the downtown streets of Winnipeg. The six-week dispute made international headlines and inspired workers to mount sympathy strikes from Vancouver to Amherst, Nova Scotia.

So begins a review about A Graphic History of the Winnipeg General Strike.

Re-printed from The Ormsby Review, an on-line journal about BC culture. Full review at –
https://bcbooklook.com/2019/03/29/519-back-to-bloody-saturday/

“On the Line” a comprehensive look at BC labour history

February 20, 2019

On the Line: A History of the British Columbia Labour Movement by Rod Mickleburgh. Harbour Publisher, Maderia Park, BC, 2018. Hardback, 320 pp, $44.95

Reviewed by Janet Nicol

Tough leaders, resilient workers and generations of picket line battles are featured in this fast-paced survey of 150 years of British Columbia labour history. Author Rod Mickleberg worked the ‘labour beat’ at the Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers for 16 years. His reportage folds neatly into these chronicles about a province rooted in a resource-based frontier economy of forestry, mining and fishing. Thoroughly researched, sources include those gathered by the BC Labour Heritage Centre, instigator of this book project, with sponsorship by the Community Savings Credit Union. Over 200 archival photographs and several sidebar stories accompany the text as well.

So begins my review of Rod Mickleburg’s comprehensive look at BC labour history in the winter issue of Our Times. Disclosure: I assisted with some of the research on the role of women in the labour movement–one of many to contribute toward this important work.

For the full book review, check out Our Times magazine, Winter 2019 issue, available soon in bookstores across Canada and by subscription. An on-line site, Between Times, offers great labour articles too.

King Tide

January 19, 2019

“King Tide”  Linocut with Indian Ink,  1/4, by Janet Nicol.  This image is inspired by the Vancouver municipal government’s call out to residents during the winter of 2018 to send photos of  ‘king tides’ along the city’s shorelines.  The linocut depicts a pair of cormorants on a favorite rock near the seawall during a king tide.

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“Cedar” Linocut, 1/2 by Janet Nicol.  SOLD (4/3/19)

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“Lily Pads on Pond” 1/1 Drypoint Etching (on plexiglass) by Janet Nicol

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“Endless Sea” 2/2 Linocut with water-colour marks by Janet Nicol

All prints on sale at Dundarave Print Workshop on Granville Island, Vancouver.

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“Petals,” Acrylics on embossed Japanese Mulberry Paper    Janet Nicol

Apples, etc: An Artist’s Memoir – book review

November 14, 2018

Reviewed by Janet Nicol

Apples, etc.: An Artist’s Memoir, by Gathie Falk with Robin Laurence
Vancouver, Figure 1 publisher, 2018.

A signature piece of ceramic art created by BC artist Gathie Falk inspired the title of this memoir and is symbolic of an artistic life as bold as the biblical Eve. The idea to create a pyramid of glistening apples came to Falk after observing produce in a Vancouver grocery store. She transformed the ordinary scene into a ceramic sculpture in 1970, as part of an installation entitled ‘Fruit Piles.’ Falk continues to create from her east Vancouver studio at age 90. ‘Apples, etc,’ is told in the first person, assisted by seasoned art critic Robin Laurence. Stories are linked together, seamlessly combining tales of Falk’s award-winning performance art, ceramics, sculpture and paintings alongside insightful remembrances of her life journey. Embedded in this memoir as well, is the growing recognition of the province’s cultural history and contributions.

This begins my book review of Gathie Falk’s memoir. Full review is available in the upcoming Winter 2018 issue of BC History, available on new stands this month.

‘My brother gave me a peddler’s kit’

October 5, 2018

The Sabas in early BC

by Janet Nicol

Alex Saba, a 17 year old Christian Lebanese immigrant, began walking the back roads of Vancouver Island in 1900. He peddled wares from a suitcase, given to him by his brother Michael, who had arrived to BC from Beirut ten years earlier.    Residents in Nanaimo and the Comox Valley came to know Alex well as he walked door to door, selling merchandise.

“My brother gave me a peddler’s kit with $40 or $50 worth of goods and told me I was in business,” Alex recalled to a Vancouver Sun journalist years later. “When people saw I couldn’t speak English they seemed eager to help me,” he also remembered. “Maybe the language barrier wasn’t a hindrance after all. I sold about $6 worth of goods, underwear, handkerchiefs and notions the first day.”

In 1903, Alex and Michael established a women’s clothing shop in downtown Vancouver, “the Saba Brothers,” serving three generations of customers to 1983.   The full story is available in BC History, Vol. 42, Issue 4, 2009.

I imagine Alex Saba carrying a ‘suitcase’ style backpack and walking along his peddling route on the eastern coastline of Vancouver Island, in this etching below, entitled ‘Island Pedlar.’  The print is on display until January 20, 2019 at the Winter Show, Dundarave Print Workshop, Vancouver and for sale, unframed at $80.

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A Glimpse into Social Justice 12 Classrooms Reveals Dynamic Lessons

September 18, 2018

by Janet Nicol

Long-term thinking is not radical. What’s radical is to completely alter the planet’s climate, to betray the future of my generation. What’s radical is to write off the fact that change is within our reach. —Anjali Appandurai

Stacey McEachern introduces a climate justice unit to her students using this and other powerful quotes from environmentalists.   The unit is part of a Social Justice 12 course that McEachern teaches at Eric Hamber Secondary School, one of eleven Vancouver  secondary schools running the course this school year.

Social Justice 12 is a popular elective that has been offered across the province since 2008.

While there is no prescribed text or final exam, this course prepares students for future studies by giving them opportunities to analyze, discuss and participate in a wide variety of social issues.

A glimpse into some of Vancouver’s classrooms shows teachers and students are engaged in many dynamic lessons.

-Article excerpt, Social Justice newsletter, (BC Teachers’ Federation) Summer/Fall 2018, available on line at the BCTF website.

Watercolour, 2018, by Janet Nicol – A red rose became a symbol for social democrats in western Europe in the decades following the Second World War.

Book reviews on Arthur Pitts, BC artist and the early history of Fernie

September 18, 2018

I review two books — The Life and Art of Arthur Pitts by Kerry Mason and Fernie at War: 1914-1919 by Wayne Norton in the current issue of BC History magazine.

Arthur Pitts (1892-1972) was a watercolorist, illustrator and photographer from England who spent most of his adult life in BC, primarily in the Victoria area and in Vancouver. His depictions of BC landscapes and First Nations people are “a valuable contribution to the artistic documentation of the Northwest Coast First Nations” according to author Kerry Mason, who also brings in Coast Salish artist Carey Newman to weigh in on Pitts’ legacy.

Fernie, in the east Kootenays of BC, continues to attract tourists for its beauty and layered history.  Author Wayne Norton examines the town during the First World War and aftermath, highlighting residents who were both  loyal and critical to the King’s call to arms.  The hard lives of coal miners and their union struggles are also described in detail.

Both books are highly recommended.

Available in BC History, Fall 2018 – Subscription and distribution details at the magazine website.

Vancouver Health Collective Celebrates 45 Year

August 28, 2018

by Janet Nicol

Vancouver in the 1970s was chock full of feminist collectives, from bookstores to singing groups, with their members pledging to live up to the ideal of equality in the decision-making process.

Fast forward to 2018. The Vancouver Women’s Health Collecive, located in the city’s Downtown Eastside, is among the few collectives to live on. It’s gone through many transformations but remains an important voice on women’s health. The organization is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year.

Read more in Herizons magazine, Summer, 2018.

Labour notes

May 15, 2018

by Janet Nicol

Check out Labour Notes in the latest issue of “Our Times” on the retirement musings of the Vancouver Trade and Labour Council’s President Joey Hartman along with the latest information about the unique and important Simon Fraser University labour studies courses.