2014 - Vancouver - Whispers Project
The above text is part of the "Whispers Project", located on the east wall of 58 Powell Street, in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) of Vancouver BC. It is an excerpt from a poem by Intrepid Pens collective member Amanda Grondahl.
Amanda Grondahl is a writer/editor and (among other things) the creator of the Intrepid Pens DTES Reading & Writing Society.
Whispers installed passages from local writers as typographic murals around Vancouver as part of Celebrate Vancouver 125.
Obscured in their isolation the words gain new context from their surroundings and speak for more than a single author. Drawing on the finality of commercial hand-lettering and the immediacy of graffiti, Whispers developed a language which is driven neither by capital nor dissent, but by the inquisitive exploration of human experience in this urban landscape.
Writing was generated and selected for the project in a series of workshops during the summer of 2011 and applied in a number of locations around the city as murals in the spring of 2012.
The Peoples Words:
A free dinner and writing gathering was held open to the public at the Dunlevey Snackbar in order to bring people together to collect their voices as content for the murals. It was well attended by local writers, artists, and members of the Thursdays Writing Collective and the Intrepid Pens DTES Reading & Writing Society. Thanks goes out to Elee Kraljii Gardiner for helping facilitate the writing process.
Expression & Public Space:
The Whispers were designed to reference the scale and style of commercial hand-lettering, but intended to communicate creative content instead of the commercial sales pitch. Enabled by barriers of economy and policy, the medium of advertising appears to have monopolized the realm of large-scale public communication. Despite the term ‘public space’ being commonly accepted as equating a sort of commons of the people, most of the physical property in our city is either privately owned, or highly regulated. While plenty of space has been made available for voices willing to pay (namely advertisers), the simple expression of an individual without economic means is rendered illegal.
The typeface used for the Whispers was designed specifically for the project to follow the aesthetics of historical commercial type, including the quirks and irregularities found in many hand painted signs.
THE INTREPID PENS:
The Intrepid Pens is a creative writing workshop and book club based at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre on Cordova Street in Vancouver. Founder, facilitator and nurturer of the group, Amanda Grondahl encourages the women living with addiction, poverty, and homelessness to engage their creativity and self-expression through writing of their own. She also gives them an opportunity to explore and discuss novels of the group’s choosing. In her own words from her blog she says: ” … how amazing it is when 15 (or so) women get together to talk, read, write, share, laugh, and grow; how group members’ writing has improved; how group members’ confidence is soaring; how some are sharing their stories for the very first time; how beautiful it is that those who struggle with reading or writing are read to by fellow group members – their work transcribed for them, and read aloud by their friends; how we’re learning through reading and healing through writing; how several group members have already been published, and how group members talk with excitement about writing more, learning more, and doing more…” Amanda believes there is a “quiet magic” taking place within the group. She is adamant that the women are as important to her as she might be to them and fondly speaks of “my ladies” as she writes “… we are a little family of writers and readers and friends now. …”
The Intrepid Pens DTES Reading & Writing Society (“The Pens”) provides literacy-based programming for residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). Through a variety of programs, The Pens provides opportunities for guided writing and reading in the DTES because we believe in the power of storytelling (and the sharing, healing, and growing that result) as a real vehicle for change.
The Pens has been offering programming in the DTES since 2008.