Will Price Helps Make a Changing City Visible with Sylvan Hamburger’s Community Printmaking Project

November 28, 2023

By Perrin Grauer

The artists were paired through the Shumka Centre for Creative Entrepreneurship to advance an ongoing series of public art-making events and installations.

A recent apprenticeship with artist Sylvan Hamburger saw ECU student Will Price contribute to a community printmaking project exploring change in Vancouver neighbourhoods.

Artist and ECU student Will Price (left) and artist Sylvan Hamburger stand in the neighbourhood plaza on 21st Avenue at Main Street in Vancouver. (Photo by Perrin Grauer)

Titled Ghosts Don’t Always Know They’ve Disappeared, the ongoing project engages Vancouver residents in the production of massive relief prints taken from materials salvaged from demolished structures. The prints are then installed for public viewing in indoor and outdoor spaces throughout the neighborhood in which they were made.

“Being able to connect directly with an artist outside of Emily Carr has been really valuable,” Will tells me. “Seeing how the art world actually functions, hearing a little bit about the grant-writing process, project proposals, what it actually looks like to be a working artist in the city has been super important. Those are things you don’t often see in the bubble of school.”

Will was linked with Sylvan through the Art Apprenticeship Network (AAN), a program run by the Shumka Centre for Creative Entrepreneurship and funded by the RBC Emerging Artists Project. Each year, the AAN pairs paid student apprentices with established artists, curators and cultural workers to work on specific projects.

Will (left at bottom) works on the installation of Ghosts Don’t Always Know They’ve Disappeared in an empty lot on Main Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue. (Photo by / courtesy Sylvan Hamburger)

Will has been helping with the installation of Sylvan’s enormous prints in spaces around the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. He’s also spent time with Sylvan in the studio, exploring new processes and learning about professional art practice.

For Ghosts Don’t Always Know They’ve Disappeared, his assistance was a blessing, Sylvan says. One of the prints, measuring 25-feet-squared, was produced in 2022 during a Main Street Car Free Day. Sylvan worked with the salvaged shiplap boards of demolished Vancouver homes to recreate a gable facade in an intersection along Main Street. He guided local residents and passersby in inking and rubbing the facade to transfer its impression onto enormous bolts of fabric.

The print has since been shown in locations around the neighbourhood, including the Little Mountain Neighbourhood House and in empty lots along Main Street. It is also scheduled to appear in an empty storefront at Kingsgate Mall and at the Mount Pleasant Community Centre. Each of these unique locations requires a lot of creative problem-solving, Sylvan adds.

“Will is an ideal installation assistant,” he says. “He’s able to deal with an unusual situation like at the neighbourhood house. It was a weird space, tall ladders involved. It’s kind of miraculous that we got it up. It’s lovely to work with someone who’s able to think ahead, jump in with things. It felt very relaxed.”

Ghosts Don’t Always Know They’ve Disappeared at the Little Mountain Neighbourhood House in Vancouver. (Photo by / courtesy Sylvan Hamburger)

Ghosts Don’t Always Know They’ve Disappeared stems from Sylvan’s experience of change upon returning to his East Vancouver neighbourhood after working at The Banff Centre. He realized he wanted to find a way to speak through art about the rapid pace of gentrification. He also knew that simply “giving his take” on a subject often impedes the potential for dialogue.

“Something I’ve become interested in is what happens when you make work in public space, not siloed in a studio,” Sylvan says. “You can have an idea, like, ‘I want to discuss gentrification.’ But if you’re screen-printing, people will want to talk about screen-printing because that’s what you’re doing. Whatever you want to talk about has to be embodied in the process.”

Will, whose own practice involves a sustained interest in alternative printmaking processes, says working with Sylvan has been illuminating.

“As rigid as printmaking processes are and have been historically, they’re also rooted in loose experimentation and accidents,” he says. “And watching and engaging with the mechanics of this project has been wild. There’s a lot going on. It’s been really cool to see how far you can take it.”

Participants work on creating a massive print for Ghosts Don’t Always Know They’ve Disappeared during a Main Street Car Free Day in Mount Pleasant. (Photo by / courtesy Sylvan Hamburger)

Sylvan notes that a project as sprawling as Ghosts Don’t Always Know They’ve Disappeared has benefited immensely from Will’s assistance.

“I feel real gratitude for the opportunity to be a mentor,” he says. “It’s not an easy city to be an artist. I would not be able to afford to have an assistant in this way. And it’s so great to meet a younger, likeminded printmaker. It’s been really inspiring. This is a really sweet, valuable program that I hope more people become involved with.”

Visit Sylvan’s website to see more of Ghosts Don’t Always Know They’ve Disappeared along with the rest of his work. Visit Will’s website to check out his drawing, printmaking, painting and installations.

Art Apprenticeship Network is funded by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Emerging Artists.

You can find this article also on Emily Carr News