A Visit to Storybrooke

In anticipation of the season 4 premiere of Once Upon a Time tomorrow, I took a trip to Storybrooke/Steveston to get my first look at this seaside fishing village where the show is primarily filmed.


a street in Steveston

I’ve been watching the series since day 1 and am a big fan. Usually shows start derailing after the first couple seasons, but I’ve been impressed at the level of creativity and comprehension it still has, despite the many plot twists and odd mix of fairytale and Disney characters from old & recent times, like Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, Hook, Ariel, Mulan, the Wicked Witch, etc. And now Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff from Disney’s 2013 hit Frozen will join the motley crew of characters in Storybrooke this season.

Kristoff and Elsa

Sven (reindeer), Kristoff, and Elsa

Storybrooke Library and Clock Tower

There’s really one one main street in Steveston and that’s Moncton Street where all the shops are. It’s actually called Main Street in the show.

Main intersection

main intersection in Moncton Street

Here you can see the Nikka Fishing & Marine building they use for the derelict Storybrooke Library that gets a clock tower and boarded-up windows added to it in the show.

Moncton Street

Nikka Fishing & Marine


Storybrooke Library and Clock Tower


Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) strolls Main Street in Storybrooke

Mr. Gold’s Pawn Shop

I was surprised to discover that Mr. Gold’s pawn shop is actually a woman’s store called It’s Posh!, an upcycled souvenir shop. The only indication of its other identity is this sign in the window.


Mr. Gold Pawnbroker & Antiquities Dealer

Mr. Gold's Pawnshop

Side view of It’s Posh!

Granny’s Diner

It’s surprising how different a TV show can make a place look. Although Granny’s Diner looks quaint enough, it seemed much more charming in the show. Then again, I didn’t go inside (it was closed) so not sure how that matched up. From the window, it loos like it has the same outdoor patio chairs inside as out, rather than the benches of the retro diner. In real life, this place is called the Cannery Café.

Cannery Café

Cannery Café

Once.Upon.a.Time.S02E13.720p.HDTV.X264-DIMENSION 1097

Inside Granny’s Diner


Outside Granny’s Diner on set

Here are some other shots I took of Steveston that you might recognize from the show:

IMG_0180IMG_0192IMG_0188IMG_0198 - Version 2Storybrooke BakeryAny readers out there who also like watching Once Upon a Time? How do you feel about this upcoming Frozen-themed season?

Time to Let Go

Ever since Disney’s Frozen took the world by storm (catch the pun?), I cannot hear the words “Let it Go” without thinking of the Oscar-winning pop anthem that many have earmarked as the theme song for their life, or at least their year. So when I came across this Vancouver Art Gallery offsite exhibit on West Georgia Street between Thurlow and Bute, the tune was instantly running through my head.

Time to Let Go by Babak Golkar. 2014.

Time to Let Go by Babak Golkar. 2014.

 Time To Let Go. Yes. I don’t know if it was the words or the still water or the ancient terracotta vessels sitting atop burlap sacks, but something about this site was extremely arresting. It looked participatory, but without reading the description, I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t know how to participate.

My friend looked for the description and informed me, “You’re supposed to shout into them and release your emotions or do whatever you want!”

IMG_7857Really? Release my emotions? I looked around. There weren’t any people walking by, but there were plenty of cars sitting at stop lights whose passengers could easily see me through their windows. I didn’t want to embarrass myself or anything because, you know, that’s the absolute worst thing that can happen in public.

But the other part of me really wanted to participate. I’m glad my curiosity overtakes my shyness at moments like this. I went up to one of the pots and said something quietly. My voice echoed several times inside—a deep echo that made me feel like I was speaking into the womb of the earth.

IMG_7856I look around again. The cars had moved on, and now there were new ones sitting at the light. The world would go on whether I screamed into the pots or not. Armed with this confidence-boosting realization, I gave the pot a high-pitched yell, short but noticeably louder. It didn’t seem like anyone could hear me as the vessel contained the sound so completely. I turned around and asked my friend if she heard me though, and she nodded. I smiled. For all my nervousness about being heard in a public space, I actually wanted to be heard. (Now I didn’t belt out “Let it Go” at the top of my lungs or anything, but I still think someone should take advantage of that opportunity!)

IMG_7855There’s something about being given permission to scream that is extremely liberating. And not just screaming on top of a mountain or in a field of wildflowers because it’s safe to do that, but to scream in the city—now that’s different. It’s no accident the offsite exhibit is placed on a major downtown street hemmed in by commercial buildings, condos, and hotels. Vancouver itself is a hemmed-in city, mountains on one side, ocean on the other. And don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely beautiful. Yet cities in general, and downtowns especially—with their pace, their noise, their busyness, their commercialism, their competitions, their comparisons—can gradually squeeze up on all your edges until the pressure becomes so intense you burst like the cork off a wine bottle. Where is there a safe space to step away from it all and tell the world how you really feel?

IMG_7858I can’t help but think the terracotta vessels are a reference to ancient Greco-Roman days, when life was a little slower and technology wasn’t so all-consuming. The absence of technology in this installation stood out to me in a positive way. We don’t need gadgets to help us unwind. We don’t need gadgets to make a statement. Babak Golkar’s work invites us to rediscover what each of us has been equipped with since birth to respond to our ever changing world: our voice. Are we OK with using it?

In this installation I was interested in screaming as a release but also a gesture or a form of contestation. We tend to let go in private, not in public, and that letting go has to do with exposing our vulnerability, which here is reflected, not only by the action of participants through engaging with the works and screaming into the vessels, but also through the use of terracotta as a fragile medium.

Offsite, located at the heart of downtown Vancouver surrounded by high-end residences, hotels and commercial buildings, offers a large potential for public engagement and it is this inherent gesture of offering to public that TIME TO LET GO… takes up and expands on. The site provided an opportunity to make a work that is acting as a context, a sort of a platform for public to be expressive and experience vulnerability in a public place, and be OK.

We live in a time that systemic conditions are overpowering our basic human conditions. Systems that once were consciously man made now exist firmly in constative modes. In these kinds of systemic entanglements, this project would pose, is there any room for active and reflective thinking and affective criticism? Are the systems muting us in effect?