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The park stops here

Mount Pleasant artist turns disposable bin into mobile park
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Julien Thomas sits on his Park-a-Park downtown at Regiment Square.

 What may look like a simple trailer full of plants and a couple of benches is actually a catalyst for community initiatives and discussion, says Mount Pleasant resident and artist Julien Thomas.
Park-a-Park, his latest endeavour, is a disposal bin on wheels transformed into a mobile community space complete with benches, tables, plants, shrubs and an umbrella. A new planter box full of pansies is under construction. The mobile park is located within a residential housing complex on Citadel Parade Street near the Beatty Street Armoury downtown.
“I hold a potluck [dinner] every Wednesday at 7 o’clock,” said Thomas. “Tonight I’m bringing my barbecue and it will be a picnic in the park.”
Thomas, a construction worker by day, was inspired to create Park-a-Park after the success of a recent project featured in the Courier this past January dubbed Gather Round. Through that project Thomas turned a Mount Pleasant traffic-calming circle into a community hub and meeting place complete with a table and chairs, a cup of coffee for anyone who happened to wander by and an array of flowers and herbs planted in warmer months.
“People started approaching me and saying it was really cool and asking if I could come and do their traffic circle,” said Thomas. “But I wasn’t sure if there was enough interest for that kind of commitment, so I thought I could move towards helping them kick-start their own projects.”
Which is partially where Park-a-Park got its start. Instead of being tied down to one traffic circle, Thomas can now move between neighbourhoods.
“In cities growing up we see static urban forms like roads, sidewalks, trees and houses,” said Thomas. “Nothing changes much so I decided to tweak that urban form and show they don’t have to be that rigid and that we can have a say in how things go. And you don’t have to be a developer or politician to do it.”
Thomas launched the mobile park in July at the corner of East First Avenue and Commercial Drive before moving to the residential towers downtown at the invitation of a resident. This Sunday, Park-a-Park will be available at the Vancouver Food Cart Festival on West First Avenue at the southeast side of the Cambie Street Bridge. Following the festival, the mobile community space will be parked in the courtyard of the Granville Island campus of Emily Carr University of Art and Design for two to three weeks before heading to Marpole for at least three weeks.
Park-a-Park is a component of the Emily Carr chART project, a long-term research partnership between the community of Marpole and Emily Carr University. The project aims to support public art and community engagement through creativity and innovation.
Cameron Cartiere, dean of undergraduate studies at Emily Carr, said the research focuses on the sustainable, cultural, environmental, social and economic impact of public art within a community.
She added Thomas came to her attention through his efforts to create conversations about public art and community.
“I’m interested in green spaces where people can gather so I saw Park-a-Park and thought that’s an interesting public art project we should test in Marpole, said Cartiere. “The mobility of it is brilliant.”
sthomas@vancourier.com
twitter.com/sthomas10

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