Lawrence Avenue

Awhile ago, I was thrilled when a blog post I wrote was picked up by a magazine. Wanting a copy for my ‘brag book’, I’ve been keeping my eye out for the publication to show on shelves. It is late. So, today I drove down to the street address of this magazine, but no one answered my knock. The waiting continues.

The trip was far from wasted. I’d parked down the street a bit, and on my walk noticed plaques in the yards of several of the residences located on the street. When I stepped up to the first one, I realized I was looking at a heritage house designation marker, and I snapped a photo. From that point on, I wandered the block taking other photos. The shots I captured were of the markers, not of the homes themselves, as that seemed mildly invasive. These might be older homes in one of Kelowna’s designated heritage neighbourhoods, but people do currently make their homes within their walls.

One of the first things I noticed was that these houses represented multiple styles of architecture. Some are quite modest, and later I would read that their construction reflected the financial realities of the time. I liked that these homes were considered important as a marker of the history of Kelowna, not only as a tribute to the wealth which founded Kelowna.

The homes are also all named with the names of former residents — people who had significant connections to the history of Kelowna and who either built or lived in the building named after them. One of the original residents who lived in a house on Lawrence had a street named after him. One helped establish a hardware store. One owned an orchard in Glenmore. One was one of the original administrators of the Kelowna Golf Club. As I heard about the occupations represented, it was like being taken back in time, like falling into a movie set with dirt-paved roads and horses and buggies trotting down the lane.  My imagination was engaged.

When I was younger, I worked as a maid in Vernon and cleaned the Vernon Music School — housed in a gorgeous Victorian heritage house. Last summer at Kopje park, I took copious photos of Gibson House because one day I will be writing a novel set there. Brandon, a character in one of my novels (Honey on My Lips), lives in a fictional heritage house. In university, one of my favourite essays centered on the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. I’ve been interested in and inspired by character homes for a long time. I’ve also spent years driving through these homes on my routes in and out of downtown Kelowna. Stumbling across these Lawrence Avenue addresses was a great perk to my day.

I didn’t know until today, though, that in the Bernard – Lawrence neighbourhood of Kelowna, there is a heritage walking tour of buildings who, according to the tour’s brochure, are a “Presence from the Past.” I liked the phrase. It really did capture how reading about the owners of these homes made me feel.

It’s an odd thought to know that the people who built Lawrence Avenue are now dead and gone, but they all had dreams, lives, families, a sense of purpose. Now, new families live in the buildings the settlers created. I know this because as I walk, family dogs run up to me from behind their fences with tails wagging. They bark at me from inside windows while I pass by. To me, a dog makes a house a home. Today in one yard a tree is being pruned by a landscaper, in another, leaves are being raked by a resident. The more things change, the more they stay the same for property owners.

According to the City of Kelowna website on heritage planning Lawrence avenue is part of a heritage conservation area. The website defines this as “a distinct area with special heritage value and character, designated for long-term protection and heritage conservation purposes in an Official Community Plan.” Such areas are established because “Kelowna’s older residential neighbourhoods are under redevelopment pressure, and the citizens of Kelowna expressed a desire to preserve the character and quality of these areas” (https://www.kelowna.ca/our-community/arts-culture-heritage/heritage/heritage-planning-initiatives). In other words, even though these properties are now worth extreme amounts of money to developers, we don’t want our local history torn down and forgotten. In Kelowna, we want to remember who our founders were. We want to remember where we came from.

Kelowna offers both a heritage grant program and a heritage building tax incentive program for owners of these properties looking for financial assistance with maintenance or historically minded renovations. In order to qualify for such assistance, a home must be listed on the Kelowna Heritage Register, or must be located within a Heritage Conservation Area.

 “We value, respect and celebrate built, cultural and natural heritage as a major contributor to our community’s identity, character and sense of place.”

(https://www.kelowna.ca/our-community/arts-culture-heritage/heritage/heritage-planning-initiatives.).

 

The Longer You Spend The More You Appreciate: Herman H Levy at Kelowna Art Gallery

KAG

The first week that I worked at the Kelowna Art Gallery, I walked the gallery in giddy awe that my life had put me in this beautiful spot. Every day I got to wander the gallery and admire art work I’d only previously seen in Art History text books. I certainly never expected to see works by Monet, Van Gogh, Pissarro, Rubens, Degas, and other masters in my home town of Kelowna, BC, population 127,400. I gravitated that first week to the landscape by Jean Victor Bertin. Large and displayed prominently, this painting, which was in every art history book I had ever touched, compelled me. If I didn’t have an actual job to do, I could have stood in front of it and memorized the painting’s play of light and shadows for hours.

The second week that I worked at the Kelowna Art Gallery, my parents came from Vernon to support my new job, and see the art work I kept extolling. My mother, who is the organized glue which keeps our family of artists running, walked diagonally from one end of the gallery to the other twice, meeting me in the middle both times, then settled herself in front of Harold Gilman’s Portrait of an African American, and was promptly moved to tears. I understood. The anger and pride and humiliation and fear battling in the features of the model spoke to me, too. My father, himself a landscape oil painter, traversed the entire collection slowly, gazing with detail at the paintings he most enjoyed then leading me over to the Bertin and conveying his appreciation for the work. Apparently, I thought, the apple did not fall far from the tree in our family. My parents had picked out two of my favourites.

Except, by the end of week two, I would discover the passion in the rocks and waves of Roderick O’Connor’s Red Rocks and Foam. His technique reminded me of a lesson from University Art Class, where the name of the game was get your arm flowing freely. Somewhere, I have a painting from that class whose impassioned brush strokes rival O’Connor’s. On the opposite end of the spectrum, during week two I would fall slightly in love with the evocative warmth of Henri Le Sidaner’s The House in the Morning. If, I thought to myself, I could own only one of these paintings, The House in the Morning is the one I would want.

In week two, you see, I started to understand the urge to posses. These amazing works hanging on the museum walls stir the type of reverence which has grown adults whispering in their presence. The collection is on loan to Kelowna for a limited time. Eventually, we will have to give them up. I am asked by patrons on a daily basis, which is your favourite, if you could own one, which would it be? By the end of week two I had my answer narrowed down to a list of six, no eight, maybe ten, of the works.

By week three, I had noticed the disproportionate nature of the garden planters in the Le Sidaner painting, and had become arrested by the eyes of Maximilian III, by Peter Paul Rubens. What is that expression on his face? I would ponder, unable to properly identify the look in the man’s eyes. If I stood back far enough, the Archduke looked imperiously annoyed and dangerous. Three feet in front and to the center, he looked hopelessly sad, but directly in front of the portrait and slightly to the left, and the long ago Austrian with the warm brown eyes and beautiful long eyelashes looked — intelligent. Intelligent, is not an emotion, I chided myself. So what is the expression on the man’s face? With the slight churl of his upper lip, the man could have been irritated, or, I supposed, he could have been born with a trace of a cleft palate. I didn’t know which, but I wanted to learn. At some point,  I promised myself,  I will research this man, I will learn who he was and what he accomplished.

Continue reading “The Longer You Spend The More You Appreciate: Herman H Levy at Kelowna Art Gallery”

That’s a Wrap

 

 

2018 was the summer that almost didn’t happen, here in the Okanagan of BC. It rained it’s way though June, then burned it’s way through August. This has officially been recorded as the worst season for forests fires in BC, ever. For us in the valley of the Okanagan, that meant some pretty dense smoke and haze, hindering, on the one end of the scale, the enjoyment of our usual outdoor entertainments, and on the other end, actually qualifying as a health hazard and a business hazard for residents dependant upon tourism to make a living.  Continue reading “That’s a Wrap”

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