Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver

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All’Italiana: Italian fashion in the spotlight

The knit pom poms on these two outfits hark back to clowns, a popular stock character in Italian opera. Italy has a long history and strong heritage in professional theatre with Commedia dell’arte (“Italian comedy”). One of the most famous Italian operas is Pagliacci (Italian for “clowns” or “players”). Photos courtesy of the Italian Cultural Centre

New exhibit at the Italian Cultural Centre

Italian Cultural Centre
3075 Slocan Street, Vancouver
Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm


The latest exhibition at the Italian Cultural Centre focuses on the highlights of Italian fashion in the 20th century, featuring garments by Pucci, Schiaparelli and Fortuny.

Guest curator Ivan Sayers wanted to focus on Italian fashion because the spotlight is usually on French, American or British fashion. “Italy is extremely important, especially in leather goods and accessories but also with mainstream garments.”

The show is an opportunity to admire Italian ingenuity, wit, craftsmanship and quality, he said.

On display until April 25, All’Italiana (“in the Italian style”) is part of a celebration of craftsmanship by the Craft Council of BC. The theme of this year is “voices of craft.”

Sayers said, “Craft usually means handwork.” And handwork is visible in the handmade raffia lace of the Fortuny dress, he said, and in the decoration on the Schiaparelli coat. “It’s beading. It’s eccentric. It’s still labour intensive.”

He added, “When you look at the Prada suit, initially, it seems banal but when you start to look at the seaming and the skirt, you start to appreciate what’s gone into it, lifting it from boring to intriguing.”

There’s construction, decoration, ratio and proportion that people tend to ignore, but it still has value, he said.

Museum curator Angela Clarke said the exhibit explores craft because it often gets a bad name. “Craft is often looked at as something that you often find in your grandmother’s place. You know, doilies.”

It’s often seen as surface design without much in terms of artistic integrity, originality, a voice of the artist or social commentary, she said. “Craft is often recreating a tradition. There are often patterns incorporated into craft that have been used almost like a stencil.”

When you knit, you base it on a pattern, Clarke said. If you embroider, you base it on a pattern. “And that is sort of a counter to this notion that all art creation is individual and it’s a one-off. So craft gets a bad name for that.”

Garments are considered like that because they have a pattern. The world of fashion is changing because it’s the name of the designer that we come to for and that often separates craft from art, she said.

Historically, there were some names that were developing such as Schiaparelli through the 1930s and Christian Dior in the late 40s and 50s. It’s not to the same degree as today, she said, where the name is everything. “We now have celebrities with clothing lines and certainly, they’re not the ones designing and making the garments at all.”

She said, “Today, everyone wants to be a designer but no one wants to be a tailor.”

“The fact is that craft often represents underrepresented voices,” added Clarke.

Guest curator Ivan Sayers said Italy is the birthplace of lace. Italian lace comes from the fishing culture in small Italian towns, drawing inspiration from fishing nets.

For example, textiles and embroidery were considered the realm of women’s history, she said. “And for the most part, that’s all we’ve got of women’s history for the middle and lower classes. Anything out of the household, the domestic space, it’s all about women.”

Italian fashion also constantly refers to its own history from the materials to the construction. For example, Clarke said, Italian lace arises from fishing culture as an improvisation of the fishing net.

The fishing net has become part of the cultural consciousness of Italian villages because it’s the major industry. “You get these towns, these whole towns, that are in Italy that are devoted to certain craft industries such as Venetian glass and ceramics.”

It’s partially so they can share resources, she said. The other part is due to technology used for the flammable arts.

If you were to make anything glass or ceramic in Rome, Venice or Milan, the whole city would go up in flames in half an hour if there was an accident because buildings were made of wood, Clarke said.

Legislation was created, stating these industries had to be 10 miles outside of a major city centre.

Another sign of Italian heritage is the knit pom poms on the Paoli dress. The colourful fluffy attachments refer to the clown, popular in Italian opera, she said. The significance of this character spread across Europe by travelling Italian troupes.

“Clowns show up repeatedly because it’s the stock character of a figure that can say anything, do anything, and you feel compassion for them,” Clarke said. “It’s like the joker in Shakespeare. He’s the one who entertains the king but he’s the only one that can actually speak the truth.”

Rich Nguyen, an attendee, visited Italy last year and the selection of Schiaparelli and Pucci within the exhibit speaks to him the most as “Italian.”

This collection features garments from the collection of fashion historian Ivan Sayers, the Museum of Vancouver and the Society for the Museum of Original Costume.

Deanna Cheng is a freelance journalist and copy editor. Her work has been published in New Canadian Media and Vancouver Courier. She has also been a resident for the last 15 years. Contact:

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Eating Out in RC: Romantic eats with your Valentine


Greetings food fans. It’s February again, so you know what that means. You guys better set aside a few pennies for the chocolate and the flowers. Yes! Valentine’s Day is here again. February 14 falls on a Tuesday this year.

Now if you really love each other, you’re going to want to save each other from the unromantic hassles that come with eating in: the shopping, the work, the dishes, the mess. No folks, on Valentine’s Day you want to eat out. And there’s no better community to get your food-on than in Renfrew-Collingwood.

Here are some of my top recommendations.

Mezbaan's Valentine BuffetFirstly, Mezbaan. Why? Because they were smart enough to advertise with the RCC News. Secondly, because my man, Chef TJ, does have a nice, cozy romantic place whether Valentine’s or not. And, Mezbaan has been called by at least one handsome local food critic – The best buffet in town! I agree.

If there’s a line-up outside Mezbaan (and there should be), you might want to scoot down Kingsway to our trusted, tried and truly spicy Chili Pepper House. I am in love with the Chili Chicken and just about everything else on the menu. Not quite as romantic perhaps as Mezbaan, but the food here will also put you in your lover’s good books. Careful with that spice, Eugene.

Now, if your partner or spouse or friend has been especially good lately and you want to splurge a little, one of the slightly more costly but superbly romantic restaurants that I can think of is La Piazza Dario at the Italian Cultural Centre. And who is more romantic than the Italians, eh! Yes, I can still remember my last visit there for lunch. Classic Italian food and some wine in a really beautiful dining room. You Romeos will be set.

La Piazza Dario - Romantic Valentine Eats

Where more. Well it doesn’t have to be fancy. Wally’s Burgers would be a good choice for some. Or Off the Grid Waffles – very sexy. Or how about the Japanese Bistro Kamome, with their Japaninis? Mmmm.

Well, we have so many fabulous places here in Renfrew-Collingwood. It doesn’t really matter where you go, but this Valentine’s Day, give yourselves a romantic little break and go somewhere local and delicious.

Bon appetit.

Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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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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Heroine of a Thousand Pieces: The Judith Mosaics of Lilian Broca at Il Museo


Judith Praying in the Desert

Judith Praying in the Desert. Image courtesy of Il Museo and Lilian Broca

On November 12, 2015 at Il Museo in the Italian Cultural Centre, the contemporary artist Lilian Broca unveiled her new mosaic series Heroine of a Thousand Pieces: The Judith Mosaics of Lilian Broca.

While the artistic genre of mosaic is an ancient art form, it is ultimately modern, even post-modern. Like a computer screen that relies upon diverse pixels to create an image, the image of the mosaic is based on a combination of small light reflecting coloured fragments. When organized and arranged by a skilled artist, these fragments of glass can not only create a complete picture, they can also recount an entire story.

In this mosaic series, Broca has masterfully arranged thousands of coloured glass tesserae to tell the story of Judith, a heroine from the ancient text of the Biblical Apocrypha.

Broca’s work brings to the attention of modern audiences the story of an ancient heroine who is as complex as she is contemporary. Traditionally, Judith has been represented by Renaissance artists such as Caravaggio, Botticelli, Orazio Gentileschi and his equally famous daughter, Artemisia Gentileschi Judith, as a seductive and violent woman who is a threat to the social order.

However, in pursuit of this depiction important elements in the Judith tale have been overlooked and Judith has been much misunderstood. For this reason Lilian Broca has revisited the Judith story in its entirety. From her more detailed examination, Judith is not simply a problematic woman, a virago, but a courageous and devout leader who single-handedly saves her community.

By depicting this heroine and her complete story, constructed from thousands of pieces of Venetian glass, Broca reveals a figure wholly modern in character. As such, Judith remains an archetypal figure who continues to fascinate and inspire. It is Broca’s new vision of Judith that makes her not only a heroine of the past, but also for the 21st century.

Angela Clarke, PhD, is the curator of Il Museo at the Italian Cultural Centre. The exhibition Heroine of a Thousand Pieces: The Judith Mosaics of Lilian Broca runs until March 31, 2016. Museum hours are 10 am to 5 pm Tuesday through Saturday.

Copyright (c) 2015 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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December 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!

RCC News December 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:

  • Indulge in the beauty of a Seabus trip this holiday season, by John Mendoza
  • Lilian Broca at Il Museo
  • Christmas memories from 60 years ago
  • Artisans Village Market, December 5
  • Read On’s Who Is Santa Claus?
  • Santa poems by Julien Duan
  • Neighbours by Robert F. Edwards
  • Great gifts for book lovers by Taya Lawton, Renfrew Library
  • Holiday celebrations at Collingwood Neighbourhood House

Do you have a local story to tell or an event to share? We’d love to hear about it! Email

The deadline for the January 2016 issue is December 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.

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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


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


Eating Out in RC: La Piazza Dario


3075 Slocan Street, Vancouver, B.C. V5M 3E4

Lunch: 11:30 am – 2:30 pm Monday – Friday
Dinner: 5:00 pm – 10:30 pm Monday – Sunday
Free parking

Linguine ai Gamberoni

Linguine ai Gamberoni

Greetings food fans. We travel this time to the heart of RC’s Little Italy—the Italian Cultural Centre—to what is surely the finest Italian restaurant in this community, if not the city, La Piazza Dario Ristorante Italiano.

We’ve talked in the past about how one can travel the culinary world right here in RC, our cosmopolitan community. What’s awesome about La Piazza Dario is that the second you enter the beautifully landscaped courtyard, you are transported back to the old country.

Passing through the gated archway entrance, you realize there is a patio area built into the restaurant. Protected from the elements, yet open to the fresh air, it’s the perfect little oasis. The rest of the dining room is tastefully decorated with the most beautiful paintings, statues, vases, plants and flowers. It is amidst this beauty that La Piazza Dario invites us to slow down, relax, smell the flowers, and get ready to “experience that particular Italian gift of making an art out of life.”

For over three decades, under the knowledgeable eye of head chef Claudio Ranallo, La Piazza Dario has been producing Italian cuisine of the highest standards. Starting with traditional Italian recipes, Chef Ranallo has created a menu that is authentic yet innovative.

“Exceptional cuisine is life-enhancing magic that should be enjoyed around a table with family and friends.” That is precisely what my accomplice and I accomplished there for lunch on this occasion.

For an appetizer, we chose the Prosciutto di Parma (thinly sliced and served with olives, $13). So good! In addition, I tried the Linguine ai Gamberoni (prawns sautéed in a white wine and garlic sauce, $17). The linguine was perfectly cooked. My accomplice went with the Pollo al Gorgonzola (free-range chicken breast in a delicate gorgonzola sauce, $17).

Everything was amazingly delicious, including the complimentary bread that came with a blend of finely chopped olives and olive oil. Service too was excellent.

Also on the lunch and dinner menus are tempting delights from amazing antipasti to scrumptious pastas to satisfying main courses to luscious desserts, including but not limited to antipasto, calamari fritti, prosciutto di parma, stracciatella, linguine di mare, spaghetti alle vongole veraci, gluten-free quinoa pasta, penne ciociara, salmone alla livornese, tagliata di manzo, vitello al limone, tiramisu, zabalione and crème caramel.

Dining room at La Piazza Dario

The dining room at La Piazza Dario is a key ingredient in making an art out of life.

So I can tell you, we felt the Italian magic! And we were just there for lunch. Guys take note, during the dinner hour, the candle light comes out and the romantic-meter, well … off the charts. And for larger groups, La Piazza Dario can help you celebrate your birthday party, anniversary dinner or wedding reception with a variety of group menus to satisfy all your guests.

So my friends, for a slice of heaven the Italian way, it’s La Piazza Dario. Bon appetite.

Copyright (c) 2015 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News