Climate activists calling for an end to a gas pipeline project in northern British Columbia threw maple syrup on an Emily Carr painting and glued themselves to the wall at the Vancouver Art Gallery Saturday.
A spokesman for the environmental group Stop Fracking Around told The Canadian Press two activists splashed maple syrup on Carr’s painting “Stumps and Sky,” which is on display at the gallery.
Don Marshall, speaking for the environmental group, said the protest action at the museum aims to focus public attention on the global climate emergency.
He said the protesters are demanding an end to the Coastal GasLink Pipeline project, which is currently under construction from Dawson Creek to Kitimat on B.C.’s north coast.
A CONTROVERSIAL PIPELINE
The pipeline has been a source of controversy in B.C. for years, and sparked nationwide protests and blockades in early 2020 in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation hereditary chiefs who oppose the project.
Protests against the pipeline have continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including at a rally in Vancouver in August.
A construction site along the pipeline route was also the site of a violent attack in February of this year.
Though no anti-pipeline group has claimed responsibility for that incident, some politicians have sought to link it and a recent arson in Smithers, B.C. involving several emergency vehicles – including RCMP cruisers – to Coastal GasLink opposition.
ACTIVISTS TARGETING ART
Saturday’s incident at the art gallery comes against that backdrop, and also in the context of recent climate protests at galleries and museums around the world.
Last month, activists with the group Just Stop Oil threw soup on Vincent Van Gogh’s painting “Sunflowers” at the National Gallery in London, a move the group said was intended to make people think about what’s more valuable: a painting or the planet.
Marshall told The Canadian Press protesters are targeting works of art around the world because too little is being done to stop the deadly progress of human-caused climate change.
“It’s just a question of trying to get the public and especially our leaders to actually respond to the climate emergency which Canada has declared,” says Marshall in an interview. “That’s the logic behind it.”
A statement from Stop Fracking Around identified one of the art gallery protesters as 19-year-old Erin Fletcher, who the group said was “prepared to be taken into custody” by the Vancouver Police Department.
“We are in a climate emergency,” Fletcher said in the statement.
“We are taking this action following Remembrance Day to remind ourselves of the countless deaths that took place, and will continue to take place, due to the greed, corruption and incompetence of our leaders. When we go over two degrees Celsius increase in global average temperatures, we are looking at death and starvation at an unprecedented scale due to inaction on climate change.”
POLICE AND GALLERY RESPOND
In an email, the VPD told CTV News Vancouver it had received a call from gallery staff Saturday afternoon “after two women entered the gallery and put maple syrup on a painting, then posed for a third person who appeared to be taking pictures or video.”
“We believe we know who the women are and will conduct a full investigation,” police added. “No arrests have been made at this time.”
The Vancouver Art Gallery issued a statement condemning the protest, which it described as vandalism.
“The Vancouver Art Gallery condemns acts of vandalism towards the works of cultural significance in our care, or in any museum,” said Anthony Kiendl, the gallery’s director and CEO, in the statement.
“A central part of our mission is to make safer spaces for communication and ideas. As a non-profit charity, we are an institution of memory and care for future generations. We do support the free expression of ideas, but not at the expense of suppressing the ideas and artistic expressions of others, or otherwise inhibiting people from access to those ideas.”
The VAG added that its staff members do not believe there will be any permanent damage to the painting.
With files from The Canadian Press
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