Art & Artists in Exhibition: Vancouver 1890 - 1950
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British Columbia Letter Number III

The Canadian Architect and Builder
(author not named)

         The want of places of amusement and resort in the towns of British Columbia is very noticeable, and is found not only in the new but in the old towns as well; Vancouver possesses an opera house with excellent appointments, but beyond this and a couple of small music halls of scarcely questionable character, there is nothing; there are no assembly rooms, neither is there a choral hall, or for that matter any hall whatsoever of public character; the so-called city hall is merely an indifferent bad market place, converted by somewhat primitive means into a series of rooms that remind one rather of loose boxes for the accommodation of the civic officers and staff, the building having proved a failure in its original business; exclusive of the opera house, there is no place in which a great meeting of the citizens can be held, and curiously enough, the need of such a place does not appear to be recognized.
         The public free library, though recently greatly improved, does not compare favorably with similar institutions in other places of equal importance; there is no art gallery, museum of any sort, art or technical schools.
         (lengthy comparison of Vancouver to cities around the world omitted) ... Possibly the only work of art (save the mark!) which the people of Vancouver may claim to be their very own is the galvanized iron travesty of a blind-folded Justice soldered to the summit of the tin dome of that arch architectural caricature, the Courts of Justice.
         The Arts, Historical and Scientific Association of Vancouver appears to have enjoyed a successful season during 1899. The membership numbers 51, nine meetings were held during the year exclusive of public meetings, the attendance at which, however, was not very large. On February 9th Rev. L. Norman Tucker read a paper on "Historical Quebec"; on March 9th one on "Canadian Poetry" was given by Ven. Archdeacon Pentraith; a musical program was rendered on the 11th April; a conversazione was held on October 10th; Rev. Prof. Whittington delivered a lecture, illustrated by diagrams and maps, on "700 Years of Work and Wages in England."
         Numerous additions to the collection of the Association have to be recorded, notably some specimens of Roman pavement presented by Miss Kilby, and a number of photographs of Egypt, Constantinople and Athens, of Greek architecture, and of Italian works of art, all presented by Madame A. Aalberg.
         During the year the museum has been reduced to order, everything having been labelled by a sub-committee. The financial statement shows a balance to the good of $77, and the city made a grant of $100. The secretary, W.H.J. de Forest, expresses in his annual report a hope that a more suitable house for the Association may soon be found in connection with the free public library.
         The Association appears to devote little attention to the arts, probably because it is found that things historical and scientific embrace a sufficiently wide domain. Owing to the lack of a public art gallery, we are precluded from receiving the benefit of even the briefest intercourse with any painters, architects or other artists who may visit our city for a few days. These painters who sojourn with us for a season and wish to exhibit their works have to do so in a manner which is wholly unsatisfactory. Quite recently a Royal Canadian Academician was indebted to the courtesy of a druggist for permission to exhibit his sketches of the coast among the tooth brushes and sponges displayed in the store window. Another well-known R.C. Academician showed his paintings in a store devoted to photography and picture frames, certainly a more appropriate place that the other, but it is not creditable to a city of 35,000 inhabitants that it should not possess a salon, studio, or even a suitable room to place at the disposal of visitors more or less distinguished in the world of art. Our city fathers appear to be too deeply immersed in acrimonious personal disputes or in the cares of ward politics to give much thought to such trifling matters as "painting and poetry," but surely if a fair proportion of the citizens are really of a higher intellectual level than the squabbling ones who usually run the city hall in these parts, the deficiencies noted would be quickly remedied?
         (lengthy discourse on "what is art" omitted)
         We are pleased to learn that steps are being taken towards the formation of an Arts and Crafts Society, based, we understand, upon similar lines to the now famous Arts and Crafts Society of London, founded by the late Mr. Wm. Morris, which has performed yeoman's service in the cause of restoring English Art to a national art, as opposed to a merely one man or individual art; the new society hopes to bring together all workers in metals, wood carvers, architectural sculptors, carvers, modeliers, designers and workers in glass, furniture and fabrics, painters of china, wood engravers, professional and amateur photographers, and, in short, all sorts and conditions of men and women who regard their daily vocations as something higher than mere wage-earning drudgery. It is intended to enroll both working and honorary members, with a nominal subscription for the former and a higher one for the latter; the chief efforts of the society will at first be directed towards holding an annual exhibition to remain open to the public for some days, and an attempt will be made to encourage the sale of local productions by means of an art union. The honorary membership will carry with it admission to the Society's exhibition, the opening conversazione and the private view, and will also entitle the holder to certain chances in the Art Union. It is to be hoped that the enthusiastic promoters of this excellent scheme will meet with a full measure of success.

...continues with discussion of craftsmanship...