Saturday, October 03, 2015

Maplewood Flats – Art Imitating Art


Maplewood Flats was the site of several squatter's homes (housing about 25 people), including that of Malcolm Lowry (in the 40s and 50s), marine researcher and founder of Greenpeace Paul Spong, and artist Tom Burrows (he had received a Canada Council grant to build his home from effluent). The Mayor of North Van, however, had plans for a shopping centre. After a lengthy court battle over squatter rights, the driftwood shacks were dismantled in 1971 by the Corporate District of North Vancouver. Tom Burrow's shack was the first to go – burned down, in what could only have been a fit of rage at their last ditch resistance. The shopping centre was never built.

In 2010, Vancouver Art Gallery Offsite commissioned Ken Lum to recreate these shacks to scale in front of the Shangri-la luxury hotel/condo building downtown (From Shangri-la to Shangri-la). In a twist of irony, when the exhibit was over, the Corporate District of North Vancouver saved them from destruction, and eventually installed them at the Maplewood Conservation Area.

Further east, where Cates Park is now, jazz pianist Al Neil (now 90), and sculptor Carole Itter (now 75), have occupied a beached 1930s float home since the 60s. McKenzie Barge let them stay on as night watchmen, but Port Metro Vancouver owns the property and claims the area needs environmental cleanup (before condos can be built). The cabin narrowly escaped demolition and has recently been moved from the area until another location can be found.

Watch the 1972 half hour documentary, Mudflats Living, from the NFB.

Fun fact: Tom Burrows' mother was a family friend and next door neighbour when I was growing up.

Tom Burrows and his son Elisha, December 1971 (Ken Oakes, Vancouver Sun)

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