Vancouver Biennale: New public artwork hopes to 'heal the divide'

The Vancouver Biennale premieres its latest public art piece today, at the corner of Hamilton and Pender Street in Vancouver. Artist Toni Latour tells the Early Edition's Elaine Chau about what inspired "let's heal the divide".

Artist Toni Latour wants to bridge the gap between social divides in Vancouver

Artist Toni Latour's 'let's heal the divide' is the latest public art installation from the Vancouver Biennale. (Kevin King (Vancouver Biennale))

The Vancouver Biennale has unveiled its latest public art installation, a 30-foot wide neon sign that will be lit in a soft yellow light during the day and night called 'let's heal the divide.'  

The artwork is hung on the Vancouver Community College building, a location marking the physical division between the Downtown Eastside, and the financial district that surrounds it.

Artist Toni Latour spoke to the Early Edition's Elaine Chau about her piece.

On the decision to install it at the corner of Hamilton and Pender Street

"The market divide between Cambie and Hastings, the Downtown Eastside being one of the most impoverished parts of our country, butting up against the financial district in Vancouver, one of the wealthiest [parts] of our country."

On the meaning of 'the divide'

"There are so many points of division in terms of poverty, in terms of politics, divergent communities and histories. There's gender inequality. There are many issues and concerns in this area, and it [the artwork] doesn't specifically tell you what those are, because that's for people to discuss and engage in a dialogue around."

On how public art can help 'heal the divide'

Latour spoke with many people who spend time near her public art piece for feedback. She spent time canvassing for ideas in Victory Square park.

"A person told me, I think this piece is about when you get a  CEO in the same room as a homeless person, and they start talking and sharing, and start seeing each other's humanity."

Latour hopes Vancouverites will start their own conversations because of the piece, and begin to heal the divides within the city.

"The message is meant to create dialogue. When people start talking to each other, and sharing their experiences, hearts change, and people transform."

The artwork's unveiling, and a panel discussion about 'let's heal the divide' happens tonight at Vancouver Community College, located at 250 West Pender Street. 

The event begins at 6pm.

About the Author

Elaine Chau

Associate Producer for CBC Radio in Vancouver

Elaine Chau was born in Hong Kong, and grew up in Montreal and Vancouver. She is the 2008 recipient of the CBC Radio Peter Gzowski internship, multiple RTDNA winner, and Gold Radio Winner in the Health/Medicine category at the 2011 New York Festivals for her series "AIDS: Then and Now".

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