Geoff Meggs calls removal of Olympic mural at Crying Room "regrettable"
Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs has told the Straight that the city won't force galleries in the future to censor works of art that criticize the Olympics.
Meggs made the comment after city staff forced the removal of a parody of the Olympic rings from a mural outside the Crying Room last month.
"I think that art should provoke debate and controversy," Meggs said. "I've been adamant all the way through: we're not about censoring any of that stuff, so this is a really regrettable incident."
Meggs, who speaks for Vision Vancouver on Olympic-related issues, said he spoke to Barb Windsor, the city's chief licence inspector.
"She said there were complaints that it's graffiti," Meggs said. "There is a spot right adjacent to it where murals are encouraged and permitted."
Meggs added that city staff told him that the work of art could have been placed on that spot, but not on the panel at the front of the Downtown Eastside gallery.
"I've heard staff," he said. "They acted in good faith, but I can understand why critics would see this as vindiction of their worst fears. But we'll take steps to make sure it doesn't happen again."
COPE councillor Ellen Woodsworth described the city's actions as "censorship".
"That is something that has been there since September 25th," she said. "It's in front of an art gallery. Who gets to decide that art is graffiti? Since when do we get to walk into art galleries and tell them, 'No, you can't have that there because it's graffiti, not art.' "
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association wrote a letter to the city expressing its "disappointment" that the city had targeted freedom of expression, and urged a review of the city's processes to ensure this doesn't happen again.
Meanwhile, the owner of the Crying Room, Colleen Heslin, told the Straight by phone from Toronto that the board was originally installed to feature a public poster presentation by Jeremy Shaw, which was put on by Presentation House Gallery.
"They were using the front of my gallery space as one of the main sites for that project," Heslin said.
When Presentation House didn't put up a new poster, she invited artist Jesse Corcoran to use the space. He decided to paint the Olympic rings with one happy face and four frowning faces.
Heslin said that the city contacted her landlord, Peter Wong, and said this "graffiti" had to be removed. He contacted Heslin, who complied with the city's request even though the mural had been on display for nearly two months.
"I wasn't surprised when they asked us to take it down," Heslin said. "I was curious to see how long it would be, just because of the direct use of the Olympic logo."
She added that she has asked Corcoran to paint a new mural, which would say, "Where will you be February 12 to 28, 2010?"
That's when the Winter Olympics will take place in Vancouver.
Corcoran told the Straight that he's "definitely" considering the idea.
"I work in the Downtown Eastside at a homeless shelter for probably the most marginalized community in Vancouver, and maybe the country," Corcoran said. "And I've just personally found it frustrating that so many of the issues that these folks [face], who are suffering so greatly, are not being addressed, but we're just throwing money at a sporting event."
vision vancouver supporter
Dec 11, 2009 at 9:21pm
Geoff Meggs is regrettable. He's the smallest and most insecure little boy on Council.
Go play with yourself Geoffy. Get a real job, and stop pretending you're intelligent.
It's obvious you suck.
Dec 12, 2009 at 12:02pm
Regrets are not enough. The work of art should be restored to its rightful space, and this government should apologize to the city, the artist, the gallery owner and the landlord for an egregious abuse of government power. Further, the staff responsible and their political masters should face a court of inquiry for actions that are at best un-Canadian and at worst an act of vandalism and lawlessness in and of themselves reminiscent of the worst tin-pot dictatorships.
Dec 12, 2009 at 1:22pm
The City needs to recognize that graffiti can be a form of art.
Dec 13, 2009 at 10:00am
Censorship often backfires when it causes even more people to find out about what's going on.
Thanks for reporting on this. I hadn't heard about the mural before today.
Dec 15, 2009 at 12:22am
Hey "vision vancouver supporter" -- You may not agree with him, but Geoff Meggs is an intelligent and thoughtful as any Canadian I have ever met. Censorship is odious, but I know that I prefer a thoughtful, level-headed response like "regrettable" over a grandstanding politician who insults city staff and encourages general hysteria and division. Moreover, any decent citizen would find your adolescent taunts and personal attacks on an elected member of council offensive and beyond the pale. I hope someone tracks down your IP address.
ElectroPigâ„¢ Von Fí¶kkenGrí¼í¼ven
Dec 28, 2009 at 8:25am
For those who are offended by the above, you'll just Loooooove this:
Jan 15, 2010 at 12:10pm
It appears the landlord took down the mural. Since it's their building they can do whatever they want with the space. There's no controversy here.