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Six drawings capture complexity and humanity on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside

All drawings by Karen Chan 

Day 1: 450 Granville Street at West Hastings.

I often pass One Tree Coffee on the bus and I  see a man with a shock of white hair. He is more of a giant than a man. I try to introduce myself, but he is in a different world.

The Human Art Randomized Trial Project (HART)  aims to get at the heart of the matter on the Downtown Eastside, using art to create a bridge between people. As  founder of the HART Project, I took my art supplies to the street and here's what I drew.

Day 3: Gastown's Air Traffic Controller

When I worked as a security guard in Gastown, this man often looked out for my personal safety. Sporting his Air Canada vest, he would energetically direct traffic. Sometimes he cautioned me from traversing dark alleys alone.

I met Rodney on Welfare Wednesday at the Country Music Pub on East Hastings. The atmosphere was lively. Many had just obtained their welfare cheques, and were living large. Rodney and his friends struck me with their intelligence and generosity. His friend, a fellow artist, kept offering me his chalk pastels and would not take no for an answer.

Rodney on Welfare Wednesday

Expensive alcohol at the Fairmont Hotel in Vancouver. Just as a foil, the priviledged also enjoy life's finer luxuries at the hotel bar.

Tonye Aganaba busking on Granville Street.

This is where it all started. I took a photo at the corner of Main and Hastings on a beautiful summer day. I am struck many times over, every time I meet a DTES inhabitant who is wonderfully polite, grateful and unusually motivated to change the world.  Is it as bad as it seems?"

All illustrations by Karen Chan for the H.A.R.T Project.

Editor's note: HART aims to reduce the stigma of inhabiting Vancouver's infamous Downtown Eastside through provocative art. Karen Chan has been drawing random strangers from Hastings St. This practice has been informed by her career as a student nurse.

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