Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver


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New Il Museo exhibit by Shelley Stefan traces family lines and lesbian family heraldry

Shelley Stefan's bronze family crest. Photos courtesy of Il Museo

Shelley Stefan’s bronze family crest. Photos courtesy of Il Museo

On April 12, a new exhibition opened at the Italian Cultural Centre Museum and it will run until June 30, 2016. This exhibition by Shelley Stefan examines the history of family identity through heraldry and seeks to incorporate same sex-marriages into this traditional iconography.

Artist Shelley Stefan’s work has always referenced the past. However, her perspective is split into polarities and her historical lens possesses two filters. One filter acknowledges that historians are guilty of sins of omission, the other sees the past as it should be.

Stefan, in her new exhibit Family Lines: Lesbian Family Heraldry, An Achievement of Arms, sees aspects of the past that have been edited out of the public consciousness, a history often dictated by the dominant mainstream perspective.

Shelley Stefan's family heirloom belt buckles with the image of the armadillo.

Shelley Stefan’s family heirloom belt buckles with the image of the armadillo.

But history can also be defined by the experiences of the dispossessed, who reside in the margins of the dominant, subsisting under the social radar, yet finding ways to survive, thrive and find fulfilment.

Il Museo itself is divided into two parts to represent Stefan’s dispossessed. First, the medieval part of the gallery, focusing on heraldry and the achievement of arms of the Stefan household, rectifies history’s sins of omissions regarding queer history and same-sex families. Second, the other half of the gallery demonstrates how queer culture has thrived and has been able to celebrate itself despite the necessity of concealment and subversion.

The medieval arms area of the gallery evokes medieval knights, battle armour and family arms—the world of the fortress or castle where the military triumphs, medieval banquets and family identity become one and the same. Here also medieval knights embarked on dangerous quests to preserve social order against threatening influences, guided by the Christian virtues of the court and kingdom. Their function was to save their kingdom from the seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride.

Stefan’s female warriors, or effigies, are destroyers of an alternate set of vices that threaten to destabilize the harmony of her kingdom. In Stefan’s estimation there are six, not seven, vices: despotism, greed, malevolence, infantile behaviour, monoheroism and entitlement. According to Stefan, the true vices corrupting humanity are acts of injustice against our fellow human beings.

In Stefan’s view a courtly society must devote itself first to harmony between ourselves, our world and the rights of our neighbours. To achieve this we must first cultivate respect for others within our own homes. It is home and family that must stalwartly preserve these core values.

Stefan imparts these values in the motto she imprints on her family crest: Perfect love, Perfect trust. She chooses the armadillo as a personal emblem to connote that, for all families, especially non-traditional ones, this state of harmony requires an unusually thick skin, an armour to protect against the dissenting opinions of those who carelessly hurl insults, leaving the family unit under siege.

The second part of the gallery conveys the secret history of queer life. On the picture walls of the gallery hang Stefan’s Masked series. This portion of the gallery depicts masked revelers, an iconographic reference to Venetian culture in Baroque Italy. In Venice masks enabled men and women to walk through the streets and conduct business in public without revealing their identity. As well, masks alluded to the subversion of the social order, especially during the celebrations of the carnival. A prince could assume the persona of a pauper and the pauper could dress in the guise of a king. Through the mask, the social order and established roles could be reversed.

For Shelley Stefan the mask conceals both her personal identity but also that of her family. While she celebrates with her family in a carnival-like atmosphere, she is also protecting their identity. Her revels must be contained within the safe walls of the castle.

The walls protect her family from the outside forces that can threaten the survival of her family in the guise of non-acceptance.

The final series in the Family Lines exhibition is the ephemeral and elusive Figurations. Depicted in black and white, the Figurations are an exact embodiment of chiaroscuro, shaded enough to be hidden, but light enough to be exposed for those who  care to look.

The Figurations are emblematic of the hidden history of queer life, fundamentally obscured from plain sight but able to be found by those who know what to look for.

Il Museo, the Italian Cultural Centre Museum, is open Tuesday to Saturday 10 to 6 pm.

Copyright (c) 2016 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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May 2016 issue of RCC News is here

This issue of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News is full of the many wonderful people, events and programs happening in our neighbourhood!

Renfrew-Collingwood Community News May 2016Get your latest issue of the RCC News at your local coffee shop, grocery store, library and community centre.

Or click on the cover image to view the new issue.

In this issue:

  • Gift From Within Tour –Saving mom with love, guts and a kidney
  • Special insert for Collingwood Days, May 21-29
  • Graham Bruce Spring Carnival, May 27
  • New Il Museo exhibit by Shelley Stefan traces family lines and lesbian family heraldry
  • Happy Mother’s Day writings from the Pre-teen Creative Writing Class
  • The Other Guy’s Opinion: On Air Travel
  • Memories of Expo 86

Do you have a local story to tell or an event to share? We’d love to hear about it! Email rccnews-editorial@cnh.bc.ca.

The deadline for the June 2016 issue is May 10. You are welcome to submit a story from 300 to 400 words. Accompanying photos must be high resolution in a jpg file at least 1 MB large and include a photo caption and the name of the photographer.


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March 2016 issue of the RCC News is here

This issue of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News is full of the many wonderful people, events and programs happening in our neighbourhood!

RCC News March 2016Get your latest issue of the RCC News at your local coffee shop, grocery store, library and community centre.

Or click on the cover image to view the new issue.

In this issue:

  • East Vancouver swordplay school named top entrepreneur
  • Make small changes to eating habits – March is Nutrition Month
  • Skytrain 30 years ago
  • 10 tips to conquer clutter
  • Free online courses for newcomers
  • Stile Moderno baroque concert lights up Il Museo
  • Local children’s authors inspire a new generation at Nootka school
  • A chat with Dolores
  • Small gestures mean a lot to seniors and volunteers

Do you have a local story to tell or an event to share? We’d love to hear about it! Email rccnews-editorial@cnh.bc.ca.

The deadline for the April 2016 issue is March 10. You are welcome to submit a story from 300 to 400 words. Accompanying photos must be high resolution in a jpg file at least 1 MB large and include a photo caption and the name of the photographer.


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Performigrations: Exhibit of immigration stories continues at Il Museo Italian Cultural Centre til Oct. 30

The joys and sorrows of immigration as an important source for artistic creativity

BY ANGELA CLARKE, PhD

Performigrations Exhibit at Il Museo

The artists who took the stage at the Italian Cultural Centre were Performigrators (or immigrant performers) in the truest sense of the word. Photo by Mark Evans

The Italian Cultural Centre and Collingwood Neighbourhood House closed the Vancouver leg of the European Union Project called Performigrations with a concert at the Italian Cultural Centre on September 13, 2015.

Through dance, spoken-work performance and originally composed Latin-themed music, the concert brought clarity to the theme of a three-week long project, entitled Performigrations: The People Are the Territory, that was initiated by the University of Bologna and its eight partner cities (Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Lisbon, Valletta, Klagenfurt, Athens and Bologna itself).

The exhibit of the same name continues at the Italian Cultural Centre’s Il Museo until October 30, 2015.

This international project looked at each immigrant as fundamentally a performer or creator, for, like an artist, each immigrant must confront a blank page or canvas when they come to a new country.

From the void of the unknown their lives must be recreated. This process of creation merges their past experiences and knowledge from the old country with new ideas and concepts derived from enforced adaptation to the new. Necessity breeds invention and the need of leaving the old country, oftentimes for financial or political reasons, forces the immigrant to create a new life from the unknown.

During the concert, the five artists who took the stage at the Italian Cultural Centre were Performigrators (or immigrant performers) in the truest sense of the word. Each artist applied their artistic knowledge from their old country to their creative process that they continue to undertake in their new home.

The concert itself reflected the spirit of contemporary immigration and cultural diversity in a unique and interesting way. Not only did performers from diverse cultural backgrounds and artistic mediums take the same stage during the two-hour long concert in a seamless flow, but it was a significant demonstration of the way immigration can lead to important artist collaborations.

Events such as this demonstrate that multicultural artists are not working in isolation, creating art and music for their own immigrant groups. Rather, these contemporary immigrant artists embrace, accept and welcome the artistic input of those outside their cultural perimeters. For example, the Afro-Cuban drummer Israel Berriel played for both Nigerian dancer Maobong Oku and Nicaraguan musician Ramon Flores.

In the case of the Japanese artist Yoko Tomita and spoken word artist Jillian Christmas, their collective experiences brought up important questions about immigration and familial memory, especially with regard to its monumental impact on personal identity.

Jillian’s work grapples with the powerful ability ancestry stories have to shape the memories of the young. To hear a story, she tells us, is to create a memory. When we hear someone’s story we absorb the teller’s experiences and the traumatic emotions encoded within it.

Yoko Tomita confirmed this but also added that, in some cases, such as her father’s experiences during the bombing of Hiroshima, very little needed to be told. Rather, it was her father’s reluctance to tell his story that formed her own traumatic relationship to the destroyed city.

Finally, Babette Santos closed the event with an uplifting thought. Immigrations stories, she reminded the audience, often contain great romantic gestures. To begin with the process of immigration is an adventure as one enters a new life, with new opportunities. Often these stories attest to the strong emotional bonds between husbands and wives who immigrate together or young couples who write compelling letters of great affection during periods of geographic separation. It is these stories, Babette notes, which will be the inspiration for her future work.

The five performers offered insight into the joys and sorrows of immigration and why it is such an important source for artistic creativity.

The Italian Cultural Centre would like to thank Andrea Berneckas, Yoko Tomita and January Wolodarsky for their generous collaboration.

Angela Clarke, PhD, is the curator at Il Museo, the museum at the Italian Cultural Centre, located at 3075 Slocan Street on Grandview Highway.

Performigrations, the exhibit, continues at Il Museo until October 30, 2015.

Copyright (c) 2015 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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October 2015 issue of RCC News is here

This issue of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News is full of the many wonderful people, events and programs happening in our neighbourhood!

Renfrew-Collingwood Community News October 2015Get your latest issue of the RCC News at your local coffee shop, grocery store, library and community centre.

Or click on the cover image to view the new issue.

In this issue:

  • Performigrations: A Concert of Immigration Stories
  • Get ready to vote October 19. All candidates meeting and election info
  • Friend 2 Friend Society expands with a little help from Variety – The Children’s Charity
  • Green Thumb Theatre celebrates 40 years
  • Strive Centre offers SKILLS program for those with brain injuries
  • You Count comes to Collingwood

Do you have a local story to tell or an event to share? We’d love to hear about it! Email rccnews-editorial@cnh.bc.ca.

The deadline for the November 2015 issue is October 10. You are welcome to submit a story from 300 to 400 words, with high resolution photos in a jpg at least 1 MB file size.


Leave a comment

September 2015 issue of RCC News is here

This issue of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News is full of the many wonderful people, events and programs happening in our neighbourhood!

September 2015 RCC NewsGet your latest issue of the RCC News at your local coffee shop, grocery store, library and community centre.

Or click on the cover image to view the new issue.

In this issue:

  • Collingwood Neighbourhood House fall recreational programs insert
  • 13th Annual Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival, Saturday, September 26
  • Beware the invasive Japanese knotweed
  • Unspoken Intersections: A curated video evening by artist Julianna Saragosa
  • Free Chinese support group for stroke survivors
  • Scooting seniors
  • Cesare Stefanon, longtime Three Links volunteer

Do you have a local story to tell or an event to share? We’d love to hear about it! Email rccnews-editorial@cnh.bc.ca.

The deadline for the October 2015 issue is September 10. You are welcome to submit a story from 300 to 400 words, with high resolution photos in a jpg at least 1 MB file size.