Time on the Water

Hands up! Who has been on the M.V. Native, also known as the Paddlewheeler Riverboat that cruises the Fraser and Pitt Lake? This is one of my favourite New West things to do and it’s one of the things I’d put on my “New West Score Card” for visitors and locals alike to check off. If you haven’t been, you need to go. The owners, Doug and Helga Leaney, are two of the nicest people you’ll meet. 27 years ago, they started this local company with a single boat, and now they offer two boats – the M.V. Native, a 100 passenger replica sternwheeler built in 1988 and the smaller M.V. Beta Star, a 40 passenger catamaran better for cruising shallower waters such as in Pitt Lake.

They offer a lot of really great pre-programmed cruises, many of which are family-friendly, as well as custom designed private charters for family reunions, weddings, corporate team building, and community events. They’re flexible and open to new ideas, too, like this Pitt Lake Bike tour they’ve introduced this year. Continue reading “Time on the Water”

New Media Gallery Continues to Impress

Written by Desirée Leal, an Arts Council of New Westminster volunteer

From an idea first heard about on an unassuming Gulf Island ferry to its current glory, the New Media Gallery at the Anvil Centre is a gem of cultural expression and engagement in the heart of New Westminster. Barely twenty months old, this unusual exhibition space has hosted cutting edge works in new media by artists from all over the world, and has drawn crowds that rival those of Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery, for attendance. Unique in its conception as well as its curatorial approach, the New Media Gallery invites audiences to participate in thought-provoking exchanges of ideas.

With backgrounds in exhibition making as well as design, art history, conservation and teaching, Director/Curators Sarah Joyce and Gordon Duggan bring the wealth of their combined experience to the realization of every show. Joyce explains that one of the most important ways the gallery serves the people of New Westminster is by providing different and surprising ways of presenting exceptional works that fuse together art and technology, while at the same time de-mystifying both. By showcasing artists that push the boundaries of what one might generally expect from a civic gallery show, the New Media Gallery is a centrepoint inspiring a sense of wonder and civic pride that radiates out into the community.

“The New Media Gallery is the civic gallery for New Westminster, there hasn’t been a civic galley before…The mayor and council and the people who built this idea were quite brave going out on a limb to decide that it would be something different…this is unique in Canada…to have a civic gallery that is focused on new media,” says Joyce.

Joyce and Duggan along with the centre’s invaluable staff and volunteers, personally guide visitors through exhibits, inviting each person or group to connect, not only with the work, but also with the artists and their processes. Each visit brings together viewer, curator and artist into a meaningful conversation about issues of relevance to our world in a straightforward way.

The gallery is completely transformed for each new exhibition, an effort undertaken with much determination and elbow grease by both staff and volunteers. From erecting earthquake resistant, soundproof walls to configuring complex electronic installations, the ingenuity and hard work involved in the installation of each exhibition, may not be readily apparent to someone on the outside, as each transformation is not only dramatic, but also utterly seamless. A visitor might be forgiven for thinking the installations just grow out of the walls and floors like trees and vines.

The New Media Gallery is set to open its ninth show, succinctly titled space_, which runs from June 23 to August 21, 2016. This group show brings together artists from the US and the UK, for a fresh look at the exploration of space, and our current and past relationship with it. Unpacking themes of nostalgia, loss, melancholy and missed opportunity, space_ promises to interrogate our place in a variety of spaces in ways that will have a profound impact on the imaginations of its visitors, drawing them into a world of beauty and curiosity with possibly, a twinge of heartache. For more information visit the website.


Five Reasons Why My New West Citizen Badge Should Be Revoked

Into The Abyss, by Graham Ballantyne (@gnb) via flickr
Into The Abyss, by Graham Ballantyne (@gnb) via flickr

You know when you have a friend coming to town and they say “You gotta show me all the sights! What do you do in your town?” and you list off all the cool and fun things that makes your hometown fun and interesting and exciting?

Well, I’m going to admit today that some of the items that makes New Westminster famous I’ve never experienced. I’ve lived here for almost 15 years (except for that year where we lived just off Cambie and I hated every single second of it) and I realized the other day that there are things I’ve never checked out, and I’m kind of ashamed. Especially since I’m a contributor here at Tenth to the Fraser. So today marks not only a coming clean of places I have never checked out, but it also marks The Day I Vow To Experience All of These Things in 90 Days or Less. If you’re game, why don’t you come with me?

  1. Massey Theatre – This one is by far the most embarrassing. As a former youth community theatre nerd, there is absolutely no excuse for having not supported many of the brilliant acts to have passed through this place’s walls. But the fact is, I’ve never seen a show or never been inside the Massey Theatre. With the possibility of it being shut down, this is flat-out unacceptable.  Over the next 60 days I can check out: Tropical Extravaganza, Superstar Nora Aunor, the New Westminster Symphony Orchestra, Dance Power’s 18th Annual Dance Festival, Revolver: The World’s Best Beatles Tribute Band, and The Vagina Monologues. I’ve decided to hit the Vagina Monologues on March 28th because it’s just $18 and the proceeds go to places I want it to go to. Anyone want to join me?
  2. Irving House – I’ve never been in the New Westminster Museum and Archives. Strange, since I love old houses, and Irving House is the oldest known house in the Lower Mainland. Not only that, but I’m told the staff are incredibly knowledgeable, and there’s a gift shop. According to the New West Parks and Rec website (PS: please update that sucker, it’s clonkier than a 1981 Hyundai Pony), Irving House is open 12-4 on Saturdays and Sundays this time of year, so it’s on my calendar. Send me a note if you’d like to join me.
  3. New Westminster Salmonbellies – this one wasn’t for lack of trying. I actually had tickets to a game last season, but at the last minute couldn’t go. A quick look through their website tells me that the season opener is in Burnaby May 14th, and the first home game is Thursday May 20th. Anyone? Tickets are a whopping $15 per adult.
  4. Hyack Festival – no, seriously. For some reason, I’ve just never been. I come from a place where the long weekend in May is generally the opener of your family vacation, so that’s usually when I go away. Plus, with 7 family birthdays to celebrate in May, I find myself a bit partied out. I am completely intrigued to see all this stuff those of you born and raised here wouldn’t miss for the world. Also, this anvil battery thing? That’s just plain old awesome. This year’s theme is “Be your best in the City of New West” and there are a gajillion events planned. I’m making a point of going, especially to this maypole thing Jocelyn talked about, taking place on May 26th.
  5. Walking Tour – well-known local historians, Archie and Dale Miller, ( twitter as @senseofhistory) offer various walking tours of our fine city. I was all set to go on one last summer, an especially interesting one about the original street plans for this fine city, and then, I don’t know, I think I had a bad baby day. Anyway, it’s a bit ghoulish, but I also love cemeteries, and I have to admit I have never done a walk through at the Fraser Cemetery and I was digging around and found this awesome “virtual” tour of the cemetary and am going to go play headstone hunter the next sunny Saturday.

So now it’s your turn, readers. What iconic New Westminster icon is a “must do”?

SPCA Thrift Shop Coat Drive

Jackets by cafemama via flickr
Jackets by cafemama via flickr

A few years ago, I was invited to help out at the SPCA Thrift Shop’s Annual Coat Drive. I bundled up in my warmest clothes, and met the familiar faces of Roni and Colleen from the thrift shop, along with a few other helpers, on a freezing night in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. I helped to hand out 600 plus jackets to some of the neediest people, sang along with some of the cheesiest Christmas carols, and said “Merry Christmas” to more strangers than I could count. 

It was one of the most eye opening and  rewarding things I’ve ever done and so the following year I signed up again, and brought a friend. Both years, it was a weird night – filled with apprehension, and a little bit of fear, and completely overshadowed by small victories I will carry near to my heart. I did some things out of my comfort zone. I helped a transgendered prostitute find the warmest and most stylish coat. I was humbled more than once when various homeless people showed pride in a free coat and didn’t want to take more than “their fair share”. I watched one stranger hand another stranger a pair of gloves because “he needed them more” when they so obviously both needed them. My heart was filled with a rekindled faith in people those two nights.

This year I want to sign up again. I need to feel that same stirring of human kindness, and so I popped by the SPCA Thrift Shop again to talk to the women who run the shop. This year’s drive takes place, as always, December 10th. The shop needs help to make this coat drive happen – in the form of donated jackets, help organizing the jackets onto hangers and racks in the week preceding the night of December 10th, and help handing out the jackets to the residents of the Downtown Eastside.

If you’re interested in helping, whether it’s down at Main and Hastings on December 10th, or perhaps collecting up warm, gently used jackets around your office or neighbourhood and dropping them off at the SPCA Thrift Shop at 615 12th Street, give Colleen or Roni a call at 604-540-7722 to make arrangements and for more information.

Knit 1, Take 2

Custom Yarn Bomb by knitgirl via flickr
Custom Yarn Bomb by knitgirl via flickr

I’m always interested in “pun”nily or cutely named groups or activities. Anne, a talented potter and knitter I met through the Royal City Farmers Market, passed on some info about another group she’s a part of called Knit 1, Take 2 and of course, I was intrigued. Um, hello, awesome name much?

Knit 1, Take 2 is a New Westminster knitters’ social group starting up all about knitting. From their website:

We are a community of enthusiastic knitters of all levels who meet in New Westminster to inspire and encourage each other, develop our skills and also work on group projects to give back to our community. Each week, we start with a short tip or lesson. You are welcome to come and knit thru the lesson. Then we knit and chat, ending with a quick Show & Tell to give each other well deserved kudos. All levels of knitters welcome – even if you are a newbie and want to learn to knit. We have a special project that will get you started on this fun, yarn adventure. This group was started by people in the film industry who knitted in between takes… hence, Knit 1, Take 2. However, since we’ve all had to rip out work and redo it, ‘Take 2’ can sometimes be ‘Take 3’ or more…

Mixed Media Knit and Crochet by freeform by prudence via flickr
Mixed Media Knit and Crochet by freeform by prudence via flickr

Knit 1, Take 2 meets at Waves (in their meeting room at the back) at 713 Columbia Street, every Sunday starting on October 18th from 2pm to 4pm. There isn’t much in the way of dues or fees, but they do ask that you contribute to their community project by making one 9×9” square for a blanket or a hat (worsted weight, machine washable only, sample patterns available if required).

You can email the group at knit1take2@gmail.com for more info.

Garden Nerd Series: Seed Bombs

The Garden Nerd series will look at gardening issues in New Westminster. Suggestions for topics, guest submissions, and questions are all welcome. We’ll try and address it all! You can find other posts, as they are added, by clicking here.

This past week I popped out to my favourite seed store, West Coast Seeds, and picked up 225,000 mixed seeds in a blend called “Pacific Northwest”. It contains a mix of 17 different annuals and perennials, and all of the plants are indigenious to BC and our zone. They are also low-to-no care once sprouted. I like saying I picked up 225,000 seeds, but really, it’s a teeny paper bag with 225 grams of seeds, about the size of a healthy Rice Krispie treat. I bought this wee little bag of gold in preparation of making seed bombs.

Seeds bombs are a little act of green terrorism, also known as “Guerrilla Gardening”. The idea is that you make this little packet (recipe below) and you toss them into empty lots or in little green spaces not being tended to increase the green in your community. Great targets are those closed down gas stations with horrifically boring fences around them for years at a time, or perhaps property being held for future development by offshore owners. I also like traffic circles not being looked after, orphaned pieces of civic property… the possibilities are endless. 

Here’s my disclaimer: guerrilla gardening is technically illegal.  But you don’t need to trespass to plant a seed bomb – you just chuck them over a fence. But if you decide to make some bombs, and for whatever reason you get arrested, you did so on your own accord. But as I said to one friend, what are they going to do? Charge me with selflessly beautifying my community? The act is not one of defiance, rather, it is one of beautification.

There are lots of recipes out there, and lots of activists out there, too. This is the one I am going to use:

  • 1 part seeds
  • 1 part really good high quality compost
  • 5 parts clay – some use terra cotta, some use the grey stuff. You can use premade or powdered. 


  1. Mix your seeds and compost together. 
  2. In a separate bowl/box/container, mix your clay up, if using powdered.
  3. Pinch off a piece of clay, form a ball about the size of a big walnut, or perhaps a smallish fig. 
  4. Using your finger, make a cavity in the ball, and fill with the seed/compost mix.
  5. Pat the clay together, so that basically, you have a seed/compost filled clay Timbit. Mmmm…. delicious!
  6. Let the balls air dry for a few days. 
  7. Drop the bombs in your targeted area. A good time is just as its starting to rain.  The balls will likely crack, but not totally burst when you toss them, and the rain will weave its way into the seed/compost mixture, providing a nice little semi-together environment for the seeds to germinate and do their thing. 
  8. Secretly enjoy the site when you pass in the future, knowing you are a little green terrorist and you contributed to make your community a nicer place. 
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