By Clement Woo, VAFF Executive Member
On Saturday, August 8, we hosted our first ever InstaMeet in Vancouver’s historic Chinatown. You may be wondering, what is an InstaMeet? Basically, it’s a gathering of Instagrammers who meet up to explore, connect and take photos with one another. Given VAFF’s theme of “community” for 2015, this was a perfect opportunity to grow our audience and spread the word about the festival.
So we met on a typical cloudy Vancouver afternoon at International Village (home of our annual film festival in November) and after a round of introductions, we were off to our first stop: Shanghai Alley. Known as the centre of community life in Chinatown from the 1890s to mid 1920s, not many original buildings remain today except for two, with unique turquoise facades. There are also various displays which talk about the history of Chinatown and in the centre of the alley is a replica of the Western Han Dynasty bell, a gift to the citizens of Vancouver from its sister city of Guangzhou. However, it was mysteriously missing when we were visiting that day! (Hopefully it was just undergoing repairs.)
After meandering through the alley whilst taking photos and passing by the Millennium Gate, the official gateway into Chinatown, we made our way towards Sun Yat-Sen Park. This beautiful urban oasis is quite the hidden gem in Vancouver, but it was full of tourists and locals alike on a Saturday afternoon. Nonetheless, we managed to get some cool reflection shots in the pond, which was full of water lilies and large koi fish.
The annual Chinatown Festival was also happening that weekend, so that probably contributed to the large crowds. After exploring the park, we eventually wandered through some of the booths on the street and even got some free swag!
Having made arrangements for a tour at the Rennie Collection, we headed over just as it started to rain. The Rennie Collection is a private art gallery owned by Bob Rennie, a local real estate marketer, located in the Wing Sang building, the oldest in Chinatown. Currently on display at the gallery was an assortment of artwork by Lara Favaretto. Her artworks are centred around the theme of celebration, but the juxtaposition with its surroundings takes away the “fun” factor and speaks to the monotony and repetition of human life. On the roof of the gallery is a large neon sign: EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT. This iconic art installation by Martin Creed seems to optimistically give hope for the future, especially given its location in the Downtown Eastside, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada, but funnily enough, that was not the purpose of the original artwork at all (the sign was actually a personal reminder to Creed after a bad breakup).
Having finished exploring the gallery, we decided to make one more stop at the Carnegie Community Centre to check out its spiral staircase. This historic building used to be the home of the Vancouver Public Library and later the Vancouver Museum, before it was transformed into a community centre. Be forewarned if you do decide to venture there: the area around Main and Hastings is the heart of the Downtown Eastside and you might encounter some “colourful” characters, so exploring with a friend or two is recommended.
It was getting late at that point, so we decided to walk to Gastown to grab some food and drinks. Since spirals were becoming a common theme for the day, we just had to make one more detour to the parkade at the Woodward’s building to check out the huge blue spiral that forms the centre of the parking garage. Another hidden gem that’s popular with photographers and Instagrammers, it is a must see if you’re ever in the area.
After fuelling up with food and drinks at the Revel Room, we were ready to call it a day. But, we still had the VAFF balloons that we’d been carrying around all day, so we decided to head back to the Woodward’s parkade and release them on the roof!
At that point, the sun was peaking out behind the clouds – a fitting end to our first ever InstaMeet. From the roof of the parkade, you get a very unique view of Downtown Vancouver and we noticed the art installation called “Let’s Heal the Divide” was visible from about a block away. This public art piece is part of the Vancouver Biennale, so we decided to make one more pit stop to check it out. Hundreds of photos later, we finally parted ways with the last Instagrammer at the Biennale installation, thus ending an epic and fun-filled five hours of urban exploration!
Special congrats to Dorrington and Kristina, the two winners of our photo contest. Check out more photos from the meet by searching for #VAFFmeet or follow us on Instagram (@VAFFvancouver). Stay tuned, as we plan to host another InstaMeet in the fall, right before the 19th Annual Vancouver Asian Film Festival, running from November 5-8, 2015 at Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinemas.
View more pictures of the VAFFmeet in our photo gallery.