Looking back on 2022: New West gets creative

From creating cookbooks to writing stories, there is no shortage of New West talent

Clockwise from top right: a photo from a cornbread recipe in New West Eats, a Community Cookbook; fairy doors decorated by New West Family Place; Nickie Lewis puts the finishing touches on one of her sculptures; Locations in Linocut by Sherida Charles, which showed at the New West Public Library/supplied

Editor's note: in this four-part series to wrap up 2022, we're taking a look back at some of the major stories that emerged in the first seven months of The Anchor's existence. 

There is no doubt New West is a creative hub. 

Whether it's writing, painting, or photography, New West's talent knows no bounds—and we at The Anchor had a ton of fun covering all sorts of endeavors meant to shine a light on our city. 

New West's writers

It's surprising to see the number of stories The Anchor covered on writers. One of our very first pieces was a cookbook meant to showcase recipes from local businesses. Jocelyn Wong put together New West Eats: A Community Cookbook, in the hopes of encouraging people to explore the local food scene, which she called "special."

“It’s one thing to know about the food in New West; there’s a lot of great food, but there’s another thing to know about the stories of mom and pops that have existed here, especially immigrants. I think they have really cool stories to tell," she told The Anchor at the time. 

Local mystery writer Winona Kent, who lives in Quayside, talked about the kinds of inspirations her home has created in writing about Jason Davey. 

“A lot of my fans, most of them are in England, and they know Jason. I’m really, really hoping people here – in places like Vancouver, and in New West – I hope they’ll get to know him, too.”

Shashi Bhat was stunned when she received a call on Wednesday, Oct. 12, informing her that her book, The Most Precious Substance on Earth, was nominated for a Governor General's Literary Award. While the Douglas College creative writing professor didn't end up taking the top prize, she spoke about how she wrote much of the critically acclaimed book in New West. 

"[The book] is set in Halifax, but I was here during most of the time I wrote it ... I wrote in a lot of New West cafes, now that I think about it. I often will write by meeting with other writers. We just set a timer [and write]," says Bhat, who adds she spent most of her time holed up in local spots like the Hive Cafe and Waves. 

Writing has also been a process for Dennis Hurd, who spoke to us about his e-journal, which he'd been publishing since 2003. Some of the content has chronicled his travels abroad, but there's plenty of New West-related stories to share. 

“Most people’s life, it’s just gone. [Sometimes] you don’t know what was for dinner. I wish I had the capability of doing this right from college. Working in the Middle East, I saw so many things,” he told The Anchor, noting that the project initially started after wishing he’d taken more pictures of the kitchens or buildings that they’d lived in during his time away.

Jónína Kirton told us she was a self-professed rule-breaker when it comes to poetry: she firmly believes poetry allows creatives to write how they want. We also dove into the release of her third book, Standing in a River of Time. 

“I choose to write about myself because I think that, well, I know my own story best, and I think that other people have similar stories. Many people who are Métis, many people who are biracial, and many women in general because I write quite a bit, sadly, about domestic violence and sexual assault,” says Kirton. 

Awesome art

Sometimes it pays to look down while you're walking, as we discovered in June in talking to Elizabeth Cartagena. 

Cartagena, who had been working with chalk at the time, was creating the art as part of a collaboration with the Downtown New West Business Improvement Association's (BIA) public space activation program. 

"I tried to keep [the art] open to interpretation, so people kind of make up their own little story about what's happening there," Cartagena explained to The Anchor. By August—and through the same BIA initiative, fairy doors had popped up on trees. Current city councillor Ruby Campbell came up with the idea, while families with New West Family Place put together the fun-sized homes.

“My plan was to place fairy doors throughout downtown New West for residents, visitors and others to stop and experience a bit of magic,” she told New West Anchor

Sherida Charles was locally inspired in creating Locations in Linocut, which showed at the New West Public Library in June. 

“Local things can be interesting; we’re still used to looking at famous French artists and American artists, but there’s some really cool material in our own neighbourhood." 

Shine Bright, which is happening until the end of January, included unique sculptures by Nickie Lewis. The creations are made from sticks and twine. 

"I started making [the stick and twine] sculptures during COVID, and they got a lot of attention from people because they were bored," Lewis told The Anchor, adding that she was approached by the City of New Westminster after it took a liking to her work, and asked her to put together some sculptures for parks. Her work made it to Shine Bright after she mentioned she'd done some commissioned work involving lights. 

Pretty cool photography

Alan Haig-Brown's book Random Walks: New West from the Street featured a variety of photos he'd taken with his iPhone 12. The award-winning photojournalist took on the project during the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, looking for something to do. 

After a publisher saw the photos, he encouraged Haig-Brown to put out a book. The Quayside resident said he'd done very little editing of the photos and encouraged others to get outside and photograph their neighbourhoods. 

“[Photographing while walking], we develop fresh views and photos of familiar objects and places. Don’t hesitate to walk the alleys. An old garage door of weathered wood looks different in different lights, so revisit places from time to time,” said Haig-Brown