Blanketing the City

Jane Jacobs wrote, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” That was the thought that came to mind when I first saw Debra Sparrow’s art installation, Blanketing the City, as I walked out of Vancouver Centre skytrain station on the corner of Granville & Georgia.

Having lived in Northern Manitoba where temperatures plunge to frigid depths in winter, blankets became my symbol of safety and family, of belonging and welcome. Listening to the strong winter wind batter my bedroom window, I would draw my blanket closer to me, comforted by the knowledge that I was sheltered from the bitter cold.

Debra Sparrow’s, Blanketing the City, is a profound reminder of the strength of inclusivity that comes when we embrace diversity and seek reconciliation. Together, we can build compassionate communities where all voices are heard.

“The subtitle Blanketing the City in Art and Culture is a concept generously bestowed by Musqueam weaver and graphic designer Debra Sparrow to reflect these Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh lands and waters. In her own work, Debra is dedicated to blanketing the city with the beauty and strength of Salish culture, of which blankets are the foundation.

The subtitle underscores the critical importance of telling the truth about Vancouver’s colonial history and working with the local Nations to address colonial erasure and ensure that their voice and presence are woven throughout Vancouver’s cultural ecology.

It is an inclusive vision illuminating the role culture plays in shaping place and a shared sense of belonging for all people on these Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh lands.

City of Vancouver

16 Replies to “Blanketing the City”

  1. There are so many parallels between the native folk of Canada and our Aboriginal peoples here in Australia. The artistic styles, for one, are quite unique; all being, to my eye, ordered, colourful and with a depth of subtle understandings.
    I loved reading about your closeness and the comfort of your childhood blanket; such memories are so sweet.

    1. An wonderful insight, Carolyn, and one that resonates and is captured in this public art installation that is part the Transits and Returns Art exhibition. https://www.vanartgallery.bc.ca/exhibitions/transits-and-returns Your words, “depth of subtle understandings” is a wonderful way of describing these amazing art forms. Winter is coming on our side of the world so I am gathering my stash of tea and stack of books along with a warm blanket. Will be thinking of you in the summer sunshine.

  2. This is an important reminder of the past history of those who lived here long before any of us arrived. They have contributed so very much to our lives today and to the city. The picture of “blankets” brings to mind so many views-warmth, beauty of design, the art of quilting, knitting, weaving and most of all, the comfort connected with wrapping a warm blanket around our shoulders and relaxing to enjoy the comfort. Thank you for sharing the photos. I found the design unusual, are they the same pieces of art attached to the sides of the buildings?

    1. I agree – this is an important reminder of the past history. I am glad that I was able to photograph this art installation at the Vancouver Centre Skytrain station before Covid19. There is a new mural that has taken its place – hope for a photo opportunity in the future. The design in unusual, as are the colours, which are warm and inviting. You and I lived in Northern Manitoba where temperatures dipped below -40C, snow would come in June and our windows would be covered with thick ice for several months. Blankets were very special!!!

  3. I love how Sparrow’s work ‘reclaims’ the Vancouver urban skyline with a blanket which embraces all descendants. Regardless of our heritage, regardless of what our ancestors did to one another, we can shelter beneath a blanket of diversity in unity. It’s really just another type of kindness & love.

    1. How very well said, Mary Jo. It is a profound type of kindness and love. Canada sets aside September 30 as Orange Shirt Day. This is a day when we honour the Indigenous children who were sent away to residential schools in Canada and learn more about the history of those schools. I think of the quote by Richard Wagamese: “All that we are is story. From the moment we are born to the time we continue on our spirit journey, we are involved in the creation of the story of our time here.” Thank you for your kindness and compassion. Hugs!

    1. Ich stimme voll und ganz zu! Städte haben großartige Möglichkeiten, Schönheit und Kunst zu fördern, insbesondere wenn sie eine integrative Haltung einnehmen. Gemeinsam können wir das Wohlbefinden des Stadtlebens steigern, indem wir die Natur einbeziehen. Wir brauchen Bäume und Blumen, Orte zum Meditieren und Nachdenken. Vielen Dank für Ihren Besuch und Ihren wunderbaren Kommentar.

    1. Happy October, Marina! Canadians love their blankets especially in the middle of January! I just turned over my calendar and am now enjoying your October painting. Always a joy to start a new month with you. Hugs!!

      1. Ah… thank you, my dearest friend. It’s a joy indeed for me too… hoping we turn pages to better days…
        Blankets are almost a synonym to home and warmth. Many hugs!!

  4. How far-sighted is the city, and how magnificent is Debra Sparrow’s work. Thank you for including us under your blanket in this post! X

    “I want to lay under the blanket of sky and laugh while the stars wink and we write our story.”
    ― A.D. Posey

    1. That is a magnificent quote, Liz! I have saved it on my computer screen! In our hurry to accomplish the urgent “things” in life, we forget that we are writing our personal stories. Diversity is the soul of a city – artists lead the way, helping us understand the power that comes with inclusivity. Thank you so much for the quote, your visit and your heartwarming comments.

      1. I have you to thank for always reminding me about the importance of our stories 💜💚💙

    1. Thank you, Cindy. Our childhood memories linger, don’t they. For me, blankets create a powerful sense of belonging and comfort. Hugs and more hugs!

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