It was the kind of snowfall that makes you want to curl up by the fire with a good book, and venture no further than your couch all day.
I had woken up early for an appointment, and on my way home to put on my pajamas to do just that, something told me I should go to the Vancouver Art Gallery instead.
The gallery is a three story building of white marble in the heart of the city’s downtown. It’s steps are a gathering place for people from all walks of life. In the warmer months, men and women in their suits and ties eat their lunches on the steps leading up to the cafe. Throughout the year, there is a gang of leather and spike clad folks perched high on the front steps. They intimidate the crowds below with their stares and pierced lips. Year round, crowds of activists, protesters, engaged citizens and the occasional flash mobs stake out in the art gallery’s courtyard to protest varying causes and have their voices heard.
It is a building where art meets life and life meets art.
Since I moved to Vancouver, my mom has gifted me with a membership each Christmas. And on days when I’m in need of a little inspiration or simply seeking an escape from a hurried life, I venture inside the gallery’s walls.
Apart from the seawall, it is my most treasured place in this town. Just like the ocean path I love to run, it is wild and peaceful all at once.
But where I go to the seawall to stop thinking, I go to the gallery to think about everything.
Each exhibit (and they’re always changing) is a conversation between my own thoughts and the mystery and magic of this world.
On any given visit, I can in one moment find myself lost in the forests with Emily Carr and the next be transported to a boardroom where I engage in a silent discourse with contemporary religious figures and politicians.
It is a place where the dreamers mingle with the realists and the historian looks into the future.
It is the intersection of what is known, and what is possible.
There is currently an exhibit that features a selection of works by renowned installation artist Antoni Muntadas. Displayed outside the gallery is one of his pieces most famous slogans “Warning: Perception Requires Involvement”.
I think, to some extent – and I say this because I’ve felt it – that we are all a little bit afraid of art.
We are afraid of what it might conjure up.
What if after bearing witness, we’ll have to get involved?
I feel it every time I enter through the gallery doors. I hesitate and take a breath, for I never know what I will be confronted with.
What if I won’t be the same person when I walk out?
It is in some ways frightening to think that a work of art might transform the way I interact with the world.
That I may witness more honesty on a canvas than there is on the news. That a line on a totem pole might shift my perception of history. That watching a projection across an armchair might make me vulnerable in the face of radical thoughts and violent ideals.
But it is for that reason that I go.
To shake up the way I see the world.
To open myself up to mystery, to beauty and to truth.