Park-a-palooza and artists at Oppenheimer Park

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Oppenheimer Park show, named “Park-a-Palooza! – Fun & Play” is running at the Gallery Gachet, 88 East Cordova, until December 1.


My first reaction to the theme of this year’s show was a defensive reaction to calling art “fun”. Many local artists have chosen this as our career, and it’s our livelihood. It’s not a “hobby”, we’re not “Sunday painters”, we work on our creations every day. Community activist Karen Ward says, “Art is a way of life.” Yoko Ono (not from the DTES) says, “Art is a means for survival.”

Doll made by Diane Wood showed at the Park-a-palooza show
Doll made by Diane Wood showed at the Park-a-palooza show

The curator is Kay Yamamoto, who started working in the Park in July. She previously worked with the Powell St. Festival and Megaphone magazine, and is studying graphic design at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. The reason she went with this theme is to change misconceptions about the park being just about alcohol and drugs, and encourage participation in the park’s diverse activities.

Oppenheimer is the busiest park per capita in Vancouver, and one of the few green areas in the DTES. Sometimes called “the community’s back yard,” it’s an inclusive public space, for people who are homeless or under-housed in SROs. On any given day you can see people playing cards, horseshoes or bingo, strumming a guitar or kicking a ball. And of course, there’s always someone on the free public phone, jumping through hoops with the welfare or medical system.

Park-a-Palooza is a multi-media show of paintings, drawings, photographs, film, carving and dolls. Norman painted NW Coast designs on enormous cotton banners. Jim Dewar drew whimsical cartoons of people on park benches. Phoenix is displaying a drawing and a photograph for the first time in a gallery: “It’s nice how accessible they make the show.”

Ken Gerberick made a Vancouver game in a Monopoly box he found. His assemblages and collages are made from “garbage”. “I don’t make anything, and I almost never buy anything, except glue,” he says. If you haven’t met Ken, you have probably seen one of his embellished Art Cars. The one he usually drives “looks like a little hot rod gone very wrong,” he laughs.  Having a studio to work in is an issue. The one he’s rented for 10 years on Main St. has a new owner; Janice, another artist who shares the space, adds, “The worst part is not knowing.”

Juan Sepulveda made a film of Mama Rosa’s birthday party for her dog Angel, who both socialize in Oppenheimer 365 days a year.

“Romeo and Juliet, a Nutritious Romance” is a short animation by the kids from Jackson Street. The clever script was written by the eldest, 12 year old Ramona Grigg. Romeo’s a vegetable, and Juliet’s a fruit.

Cecily, from the Gachet, writes that show-casing people’s resilience, the strength of humour and the capacity to celebrate in the face of adversity provides a window onto the beauty and complexity of our community.

There’s a Scavenger Hunt on November 9. For more information, contact the Park at 604-253-8830 or

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