Every city has one. In Vancouver, Kingsgate Mall is the shopping mall that is most often the butt of jokes by locals. So much so that, earlier this year, two people created a satirical Twitter account (@Kingsgate Mall) that received a ton of media attention, and rapidly picked up over 6,000 followers.
Well, perhaps in an effort to show another side of what some people have dubbed The Mall That Time Forgot, Casey Wei has launched Kingsgate Mall Happenings, a series of events taking place over the month of June.
For her residency with the Western Front artist’s centre, Wei has curated a series of “concerts, public forums, curated conversations, comedy, poetry readings, dance, karaoke, and even tarot readings,” according to the website Scout, at the Mount Pleasant mall.
Most if not all of the happenings will take place in a lounge set up in the middle of the mall, which is located on the corner of Kingsway and Broadway and is easily accessible via transit from downtown (and other parts of the city). The lounge includes leather couches and three TV monitors.
We asked Casey Weir about her inspiration for the project. She told us, “Much of my waking life is spent in Mount Pleasant – I work in the area and my studio is there as well, and lots of friends live nearby. I live in the West End, actually, and was spending a lot of time at Robson Public Market earlier in the spring. That space is special as well, it also has a special aura amidst the modern day speed of life. And then things just sort of happened when Sarah Todd (Media Curator at Western Front) asked me to do a residency, and from that my thinking went a b-line to Kingsgate Mall and doing something there. The residency was set for June so I approached Leyda (mall manager) about doing something and she and the mall were immediately on board and super supportive. I just met with the Twitter girls this week for an upcoming episode of Cobra’s Corner – an audio series I’m doing while at the mall.”
And, on the subject of the mall’s reputation: “I’m familiar with the nicknames the mall has – Cracksgate, Hellsgate, Cheapsgate.. these names have been in popular consciousness for a long time. From what i’ve heard of the mall’s history, it started on a real high note and went into a bit of a dip in the ’80s when Mount Pleasant was a seedier area than it is now. I’ve talked to people who have seen security guards get punched and stabbed, and people joke that the only transaction that happened here for a while was shoplifting booze from the liquor store.
“But I’ve also had conversations with seniors who have been coming to the mall forever, since day one, who use the space as a place to hang out, play Keno, eat ice cream, etc. and that’s what I think makes Kingsgate really special. It’s real life, but also a special little bubble separate from the rest of the world. Kind of a reprieve, a community centre, a welcoming place that is inclusive of a really diverse population.”
So far, the Kingsgate project has mostly hosted bands with the local music festival Music Waste. Other notable events include Mallzak featuring local musicians on Thursday and Friday nights (including the V. Vecker Ensemble on June 19, tarot readings this Saturday (June 14), a dance performance called Stack Moves June 18 and a reading by Vancouver author Michael Turner on Wednesday June 25.
For more info, visit the Kingsgate Mall Happenings Tumblr account.