Sophia Books closing up shop due to rent increases


A wide variety of books in multiple languages could be found at Sophia Books.

Vancouver loses another player in its literary scene as one of its last independent bookstores prepares to shutter its retail storefront on West Hastings St. at the end of May.

Sophia Books is the only multilingual bookstore in B.C. and in Canada selling publications and audiovisual material in English, French, Japanese, German, Spanish and Italian. Current owners Marc Fournier and his wife Yuki are being forced to close their 35-year-old family-owned business due to rising costs and declining sales. Fournier said the new building owner is increasing their rent by about 30 per cent more.

“[Vancouver] is a city in which the price of commercial space is not in synch with the size of the population,” said Fournier, adding the economy has been bad for the last couple of years as well.

“My sales were down 60 per cent in February compared to last year,” he said, adding February 2010 was particularly bad for retailers despite all the people downtown.

“They were only buying beer, pizza and mittens,” Fournier said about the thousands of people downtown during February. Other businesses in Gastown were also empty. Fournier said half his customers left the country and the other half stayed home during the month. Other customers are loyal but they are being forced to move out to the suburbs where it is affordable and they don’t come downtown as much. Then there are the customers that are just in town for two or three years.

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Movies inspiring local change

Film buffs can view a series of compelling documentaries this week examining hot topics in social and environmental issues.

The Projecting Change Film Festival runs from April 22 to 25 at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas in Vancouver. Guest speakers will host discussions with the audience after each screening.

Colette Gunson is the festival’s executive director. Prior to this she worked in public relations for film clients, most notably for locally-produced The Corporation in 2003.

“We bring films from all over the world and we bring in local speakers to talk about what they can do in their homes,” she said about about the reasons for having speakers and a discussion following each film showing.

“When the festival was founded, it wanted to engage the community around issues,” said Gunson. “[After] the audience’s attention is captivated…it’s shame to let all that energy go at the end. Part of creating community engagement is to get people talking about [the films].”

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Salishan Landscape Examined in Gallery Exhibition

Keith Nahanee with one of his handwoven blankets.

A current display of traditional and contemporary Aboriginal craftwork alongside photographs of hereditary lands reveals local history in a fresh way.

Laid Over to Cover: Photography and Weaving in the Salishan Landscape runs until April 11 at Presentation House Gallery in North Vancouver. Meirion Cynog Evans and David Bellman, who have developed a close affinity with First Nations people over the years, are the guest exhibition curators.

The 75 black-and-white photos date from 1871 to 1904, when the Canadian Pacific Railway was expanding into B.C. said Evans. They document how the CPR was influencing changes in the province as well as how it unified Canada. He and Bellman looked at them anew and researched their history. The exhibition identifies the locations of the photos as well as reveals the true First Nations territory.

The Salishan landscape, between Banff, Alberta, and Vancouver, is defined by certain distinct language groups and their self-contained cultural/geographical boundaries—Coast Salish includes the Halkomelem Musqueam (Upper/Lower Fraser Valley) and Squamish nation; the Interior Salish includes the Shuswap, Okanagan, Upper/Lower Thompson, and Lillooet (Upper/Fraser River and Lower/Lil’wat).

The exhibit also features 49 artefacts that demonstrate the continuous tradition of cedar and wool weaving within Salishan territories. These include many fine examples of weaving in from historical and contemporary times—ceremonial hats, cradles, baskets for berry picking, fishing, storage and so forth. Melvin Williams of the Lil’Wat Nation in Mount Currie has been weaving for 30 years, since he was 14. He has several recent examples of his work on display. He creates many of these from looking at old photos or museum pieces.

Melvin Williams with two of his creations

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Disability artists push network forward

Artists with disabilities are revitalizing plans to establish a peer-to-peer network to share information and promote their own development within the province.

The BC Regional Integrated Arts Network plans to bring both individuals and organizations together to provide them with advocacy, member services and funding support. Kickstart, a local nonprofit organization focused on arts and disability culture, originally conceived the notion in 2006. Through some seed funding through 2010 Legacies Now and the BC Arts Council, they will now be proceeding with building on the conceptual plans from the past few years.

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Artists with disabilities ignite new practices, attitudes

Happening now in the city, a local arts festival is challenging old assumptions about disability and aiming to advance disability culture in Canada.

The Kickstart Festival 2010 runs until March 27 in Vancouver at various venues as part of the Paralympics and Cultural Olympiad. The event includes two major visual arts exhibitions as well as dance performances and a comedy show.

Geoff McMurchy is the artistic director for Kickstart, the nonprofit society that organizes the festival, and also an artist with a disability.

Geoff McMurchy, Artistic Director, Kickstart Festival

“We offer the mainstream community a whole new palette of ways of being, moving, and interacting with faces and bodies,” he said, adding artists with disabilities are offering new ways to collaborate with others by providing new source material. In turn, artists and the public have new territory to explore.

“The arts have a powerful way of reaching people—we’re realizing that as a community,” he said.

They are also aware of the educational role the arts have in helping to strengthen the community and engendering disability pride. “We’re providing role models so people with a disability will think, ‘Maybe I can do that, too.'”

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Women stage diverse cabaret fundraiser

To celebrate feminine creativity, an all-female variety show rolls out soon at Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver. A benefit for the North Shore Women’s Centre on March 20, the event is produced by and for women to raise money to provide services for women throughout the year.

Supriya Ryan is the development and outreach co-ordinator for the women’s centre who has worked on organizing the Crimson Cabaret since it started three years ago.

“The event started because we wanted something more than a fundraiser,” Ryan said. “We wanted to support and exhibit women’s diversity and artistic abilities in Vancouver.” She said it’s an eclectic program every year and it involves many women, including producers, technicians, entrepreneurs, advertisers, singers, dancers and more. There will be 13 performances with each one coming from a different art and experiential background as well as different age groups.

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Famous Ship from Russia Cruises Around World



The majestic presence of a Russian tall ship, which sat moored in North Vancouver during the Olympic Games in February, recalled the era of the great sailing ships.

The Kruzenshtern, a four-mast ship also called a barque, is the second largest traditional sailing vessel still in operation. It is also one of the world’s last windjammer—a type of large merchant sailing ship with an iron or steel hull used for carrying cargo in the late 19th and early 20th century.

With its home port in Kaliningrad, the Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea, the ship took about six months to arrive in Vancouver, visiting Belgium, Spain, the Canary Islands, Peru, Venezuela, Panama and a few other countries. It was here to promote the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. On daily tours of the decks, sailors gave visitors an opportunity to see the vintage ship up close.

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