On the morning of Sunday July 8 2007, a long stretch of floral graffiti appeared on the green space below the Georgia Viaduct at the corner of Main St. and Union St. in downtown Vancouver, BC, Canada. A team of workers, known as the Vancouver Flower Brigade (VFB) in collaboration with the Hogan's Alley Memorial Project, and captained by artist Lauren Marsden, planted over 2000 red impatiens to spell out the phrase, "HOGAN'S ALLEY WELCOMES YOU"
The text serves to beautify the neighbourhood which has been subject to an onslaught of redevelopment and construction. It also commemorates the former site of Hogan's Alley which was the first and last neighbourhood in Vancouver with a substantial concentrated black population. The flowers are situated exactly where the alley used to be. Most of Hogan's Alley was destroyed circa 1970 by the City Council's construction of the Georgia Viaduct and it now exists only on the periphery of public memory.
This area (200 block Union St.) is (dys)functional in several ways. It looks like a park but is not defined as one, nor does it have an official name. It is a relatively large green space that receives only minimal maintenance from the city. The bridge now determines the edge of Strathcona and Chinatown. Strangely, despite the magnitude of civic development, the area maintains a legacy of serving the interests of marginalised populations and alternative economies. It was once a site for a racially, religiously, and ethnically diverse community which could not easily integrate into the larger city structure. It is now a haven for the transient, homeless, sex trade-involved, poor, and/or drug-addicted citizens of the Downtown Eastside.
This installation acts as an interface for engagement with the space on several levels. This involves access to historical locational information such as when the question is asked from person to person, "What is Hogan's Alley?" And then, of course, "What happened here?" This is an oral conduit for community interaction whereby the identity of the area is defined, redefined, authenticated, and mythologised. Also, I believe that the flowers create a bond between the cyclists, business owners, dog-walkers, pedestrians, neighbours, and transients who use the area and develop a greater sense of pride or respect catalysed by the loving gesture that has been made.
Lauren Marsden website
Hogan's Alley Memorial Project blog