Leave it to Shop Wrong to pick up where others may have – regrettably – left off. Tucked away within the only kink on Hasting’s long, linear stretch across Vancouver, the shop on the corner of Vernon Street functions as a shop, studio space, art gallery and support network for the East Van community.
The owners, Rob Geary and Louis Galvan, along with his brother Will Galvan, are more widely known for their East Van Moving company, but their most recent endeavour, Shop Wrong, is a self-sustaining, social assistance and artist collective that is leading the way on restructuring the local economy.
Shop Wrong’s merchandise, magazine-featured furniture, custom woodwork, welding and jewelry, is produced by local artists in a collaborative effort to salvage abandoned materials, promote creative expression, and connect to people in the neighbourhood.
The shop provides free studio space for artists to display and produce their work, and has a range of carpentry, welding and print screening tools available to the artist collective. It’s an open space, a free creative cultural center.
“If you’re from the neighborhood, and you’ve got a good attitude, please come by,” says Geary.
The set of friends host an array of events and workshops ranging from a talk by well-known speaker and author Gabor Mate to in-store musical performances, with monthly art shows between events. For example, the store will soon welcome performers from the first annual Native Hip-Hop Festival (running from Aug. 30 Sept. 1) in a Native graffiti battle and freestyle tournament
Rob Geary, originally from Haida Gwai, is what he calls the “ultimate Canadian” – part Gitxsan, Norwegian and Ghanaian; the Galvan brothers immigrated from El Salvador 22 years ago.
Every Saturday artists get together for carving workshops, some of which have been taught by Haida artist Corey Bulpitt, whose work is currently showing at the Bill Reid Art Gallery. The exhibit, titled AKOS, explores the connection between his Haida art and street art.
Shop Wrong’s impromptu language workshops are more attuned to the language of artistry and culture than to linguistics (for now), and are in fact, about much more than just words.
“It’s an introduction to people being able to explore their own culture and that’s essentially what we try to provide here. I’ll give you an idea of what my culture is about – what Haida’s about and what Gitxsan is about- and I’ll bring other people from the nations that may know other things that I don’t know,” says Geary.
According to Geary, communicating through art is key. For many of the West Coast and Kwa-kwu wak works at Shop Wrong, artists attending the workshop get to explore their culture as it is showcased through their work, and the work of others in traditional and modern form.
“We encourage you to explore your own culture, to find what your art style is, what your stories are, and who your people are because, as similar as we all are, we’re all very different,” explains Geary.
The artists have found creative avenues to engage with the changing dynamics of the city. Recently, they picked up salvaged wood beams from the demolition of one of the last old, free-standing brick buildings in Vancouver. The building once served as an old punk venue, and later as a film location on Powell Street before being torn down for redevelopment. The beams were reworked to create new furnishings, much like the bar Shop Wrong created for Chinatown’s Vapor Lounge.
Connecting visual form with social functionality, Shop Wrong is one of very few businesses that are stretching economic incentives to include social ones.
“That’s the cool thing about this place,” says Aaron Cook, an employee at Carnegie Community Center and friend of the shop. “It’s an inspiration every time I come in here. It’s like, man! Just look around! You can’t believe this place exists. It’s so much of everything!”
All are welcome to check out the last day of the Annual Native Hip Hop celebrations at Shop Wrong on Aug. 31.