The block on Kingsway between Wales and Rhodes streets has light pedestrian traffic. As we are installing the last mosaic pieces in the two entries to the park the protective fence is still there. Norquay Park has been a construction zone since July of last year. The few people that pass by either slow down beside us or stop.
They are all curious as to when the park will be open again. They also notice the mosaic pieces and seem impressed with their beauty. Along the progress with installation we’ve gradually been able to get the sense of significance this project has in the upgraded park. The entry pieces have a good impact as gate decorations.

The history of Still Creek is one in many similar stories of urban industrialization, reflection and rehabilitation. Today the Vancouver part of the creek is still mostly hidden in underground pipes or behind chain link fences. From its designation as the most polluted stream in BC in the 1980s, much progress has been made and much more is required. Serious work has been taken to bring it back to a liveable natural element in urban space. The Norquay Park 2010 Clean Water Mosaic project is one stepping stone in a long educational journey.

Funding for our part of the journey came from the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, the Vancouver Neighborhood Matching Fund and Collingwood Neighborhood House. The intention of this collaboration between budgetary resources is to facilitate community interaction. Participation in the building process of the park enhances the sense of ownership over the neighbourhood.

Members in the community were brought together to create a visual reminder for all to enjoy. Twenty pieces were created in this process and are now integrated in the concrete sections of the paths in the park. After entering either from its west or east entries you are welcome to explore the park and find the other mosaic pieces. All of them are a result of many hours shared by community members who participated in our workshops. It is our pleasure to thank them all, seniors, adults and youth for their contribution.

Installing our mosaics provided us with the opportunity to work closely with the architects and builders who were responsible for the function of the park. The result of their work is a fabulous space with a great sense of place.

The conclusion of this project brings me back to its starting point. In the research for mosaic making we met Liz Calvin and Bruce Walther. These two mosaic artists’ work can be seen in many places around and out of town. Without their generosity this project would have looked completely different. A sample of their collaboration can be seen in Downtown Vancouver where a set of eighteen pieces are placed.

Many more contacts were made throughout the process. Yoko and I are grateful to all who helped us get to this stage. Our own collaboration started with mutual interest in this experience and ends with excitement over the accomplishment. Just like the small pieces of a mosaic tile tell a story, the whole set of twenty expands this into space and time. This is a reflection on industrialization and rehabilitation.



I was halfway through a mosaic laying workshop discussing the fascinating aspects of creating a story through one by one laying of tiles on the concrete surface. As part of my routine I turned to one of the kids and asked him: “what’s the story in your tile?” His response illustrated exactly what Yoko had described as the challenge of working with youth: “whatever…” he said with the most lifeless look on his face.
They’re bored; they’re all over the place; they always want to do something other than what you were committed to deliver. “How do you spell whatever?!” I asked him with surprising breathless enthusiasm. In retrospect I couldn’t really explain where my outburst came from. His response was “aahm, doubleyoo, ‘H’, ‘A’…, whatever…”. So I had to conclude with “Good Job! I almost got you there!”.

Putting this experience in writing reminds me that face to face communications lives in a different universe than that of letters and text. In the written space, texting, typing or messaging have a life of their own. Whoever the recipient might be, my words arrive at the other side without facial expressions and no sounds. I can send an innocent “What’s up?” to my sister and hear the explosions from the other side of the world in a matter of minutes. Or never hear from her ever again.

Sometimes every breath we take is loaded with food for interpretations. When I was a teenager I had realized that no matter what I do or say there is always someone who will be upset. My conclusion was to do whatever felt right to me. If any explanations will be needed afterwards, so be it. You have to trust your own intentions.

Communications can be an adventure. There are people who prefer to avoid confrontation. I can envy them for their choice of calm and composure. Most of the time my patience is that of an educator. Occasionally though I feel like it is that of a rebel: why should I wait till tomorrow for the action that could have been taken yesterday?! But people need their own time to join a "revolution". Put the wrong pressure and something will break. Fixing what went wrong then takes place instead of any sense of progress. Without prior intentions I become a rescue expedition to outer space.

The mosaic workshops were mostly grounded in and around community centers. No extraterrestrial adventures here. The boy who got the attention he needed continued to work on his tile with a new sense of commitment. Whatever he texted to his friends afterwards I have no idea…