When doctors told Joey and Darryl Simon that their son Jet’s premature birth could result in learning disabilities, the couple immersed him in the world of art as a means of helping him overcome any educational obstacles. Their tutelage and care paid off, resulting in an impressive array of paintings from their child at a very young age. Jet’s talent and creativity inspired his parents to establish 4Cats Arts Studio in hopes of unleashing the inner artists of other children as well as adults. The Simons accomplish this mission through hands-on sessions in mixed media, painting, and Artist Focus classes, which concentrate on the histories and styles of certain artists, such as Picasso’s cubism and Andy Warhol’s self-portraits of soup cans.
The vision for what eventually became the arts-centric Vancouver Biennale organization began in 1998 when Buschlen Mowatt Galleries opened their four-month-long outdoor Open Spaces exhibit. Determined to go beyond the walls of traditional art galleries, the event’s organizers brought their showcase to a mile-long stretch of beach in English Bay and the back of one giant sea turtle. The sculptures, crafted by luminaries hailing from France, England, Colombia, and the US, drew more than seven million viewers during its limited run, and set off the idea that would become the Biennale—a biannual celebration exposing locals to many forms of public art.
Since then, the celebration has expanded to include not only visual arts but performance art and new media. In recent years, events have also included the Vancouver Tour de Biennale, an area bike tour that gathers cyclists to cover varying distances around the Vancouver area as they admire public art displays along the road.
The Vancouver Art Gallery boasts a permanent collection of more than 10,000 works and features the creations of well-known international and Canadian artists such as Emily Carr and Jeff Wall, alongside a rotating selection of travelling exhibitions.
The Whale Museum’s exhibits illustrate the natural history of marine mammals, placing special emphasis on the three orca pods that frolic in San Juan waters from May through September. Visitors can watch a looped 30-minute video on Pacific Northwest whales, or listen to the songs of various species in the Whale Phone Booth, which doubles as a superhero transformation chamber. Members enjoy discounts on educational programs and 10 percent off at the museum store.