Click HERE for a 10-minute journey through the methods and motivations behind this MFA thesis. (Film made by Ana Valine, Rodeo Queen Pictures, August 2020)
Image found at vancouverisawesome.com
I've been thinking for a long time that Vancouver needs a Free Store, just like the most popular 'retail' store on the Gulf Island of Lasqueti. And now there it is, inside the old vault of a former dim sum warehouse in the 800 block of East Hastings.
The East Van Free Store is a community/art project hosted by the Red Gate Collective, with the whole point being actual social engagement (as opposed to virtual a la craigslist) and it's getting some media attention (CBC radio interview with Collective member Julia here).
Score! Felt pens and new Moleskin.
It's also about to get more public attention after its imminent relocation to the storefront of this studio and performance space. At the time of this writing the old safe room is open Tuesdays from 4-10 pm but I think this thing could take off due to popular demand. I dream of a chain of Free Stores, with the City offering grants to manage them, as a way to reduce landfill — that is, if the giant thrift store chain eight blocks east doesn't start squawking about unfair market advantage.
Because really, it's hard to go into retail battle with a free store, a potential paradise for everyone from hoarders who will find no barriers to bingeing on stuff to minimalists who need to purge to feel normal, and everyone in between — including makers in need of raw materials.
Lasquetians have been enjoying the social hub that is the purpose-built Free Store (and recycling depot) for many years. It's almost impossible to not stop by, for the conversation and the conversation pieces often donated anonymously. The social engagement mostly happens on the sheltered porch lined with shelves full of books and whatnots as the clothing part of the store is only open two days a week.
A few gems — the truly useless, confounding items — make the Free Store Gallery, an educational/art feature of the islanders' community website.
This is where keen-eyed local photographer Kristen Charleton posts her images of Free Store junk (her portrait of a donated rusty tin can of utensils is below) in a sort of lighthearted shame-the-dumper-donor series, evidence that even the truly undesirable has value.
I've long relied on the Lasqueti Island Free Store as an important supply of raw materials for various projects.
A sampling of works made to comfort and discomfort:
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