It’s been painstaking work, but the former cabin of a West Coast artist duo is being restored and relocated in Vancouver to serve as floating space for a new Artist Residency. It’s a fascinating story and a lesson in preservation.
Debra Sparrow (Musqueam – above) is one of the artists who will examine local histories and Indigenous traditions as part of the first, one-year Blue Cabin Floating Artist Residency in Vancouver’s False Creek.
The inaugural program, Skeins: Weaving on the Foreshore, also features Angela George (Squamish/Tsleil-Waututh), Janice George and Buddy Joseph (Squamish), all pivotal in the revival of Coast Salish weaving.
The cabin, built as a floating house in 1927, started out in Coal Harbour, then moved to the North Vancouver waterfront, where it became a studio for artists Al Neil and Carole Itter for five decades.
They were evicted in 2015 when the site was purchased by Polygon Homes. A community campaign organized by grunt gallery, Other Sights for Artists’ Projects and Creative Cultural Collaborations saved the cabin from demolition (more on that here).
From an Artist Talk (2018) presented by the grunt gallery at Emily Carr University, Vancouver, by Jeremy Borsos, who with his wife took on the remediation of the Blue Cabin:
“Using historical materials, they took the structure apart, methodically cleaned every inch, and replaced the rotted out bits. . . . Essentially, they treated it as an archaeological site, collecting its history in scraps of newspapers and mouse nests and, in an archival process, painstakingly saved what remained.”
“The humble structure revealed itself slowly over the six-month period of the restoration and culminated – when they took up the floor – in the discovery of almost 40 posters that had been put there in 1927 to prevent the floor from squeaking.” (more pictures on the Jeremy Borsos site, here)
“About 75% of the money and resources needed to launch the residency this September has been secured,” the organization says on TheBlueCabin.ca .