Vancouver artists target Mayor Robertson online

'JuiceMan' website focuses on housing, gentrification

A group of artists is scoffing at a Vision Vancouver website promoting the party's arts and culture agenda.

WeBacktheJuiceMan.com, by comedian Sean Devlin's TruthFool Communications advertising agency, launched Oct. 17 to hype Mayor Gregor Robertson's support for Vancouver's creative community. Robertson is nicknamed "Juice Man" for co-founding Happy Planet Foods, the Burnaby-headquartered organic juice company that closed its East Side office last February.

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Devlin and Cameron Reed produced the anti-Conservative ShitHarperDid.com website critical of Prime Minister Stephen Harper that went viral during May's federal election. Reed is Vision Vancouver's digital communications coordinator.

In response, the group of artists launched WeDontBacktheJuiceMan.Tumblr.com to counter the pro-Vision website. "We are not backed by any party, we are entirely volunteer run," said spokesman Graeme Fisher. "The [We Don't Back the Juice Man] site is not paid for by a political party or a developer, which the NPA and Vision Vancouver are."

Fisher said he is part of a collective effort by local artists who argue the Vision Vancouver and NPA-endorsed gentrification of the Downtown Eastside and other areas is driving artists and the working poor out of the city. Fisher accuses the pro-Robertson website of "art-washing."

We Don't Back the Juice Man mentions the hasty evictions and demolitions at the Little Mountain social housing project, which is now barren and awaiting redevelopment.

"There's a lot of rumbling in the arts community, but also in the opaque left in the city," Fisher said. "In a sense the site is trying to repoliticize the debate and make it so artists and the working poor in the city are able to continue to live here."

Reed said the anti-Robertson site is more about housing issues than the arts.

"As for protecting artist spaces, that is a key issue for our creative community and Vision Vancouver has a clear platform for that," Reed said via email. "We feel that being out there in the community as ambassadors engaging people directly is more effective than anonymous websites."

Reed said he was asked by Vision to handle the We Back the Juice Man campaign's Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blog presence a few weeks after TruthFool pitched the party with the concept. "They provided a bit of funding to get the site going," Reed said. "We created the content and received submissions. It's pretty arm's length as far as control and input."

Images include a painting of Robertson by Robert Mearns and a photo of Robertson's head Photoshopped onto Canuck Ryan Kesler's nude body, with a bottle of Happy Planet's Extreme Green perched on a rock.

Videos on the site feature proprietors of The Lido and Little Mountain Gallery praising Coun. Heather Deal, Vision Vancouver's arts and culture advocate.

We Back the Juice Man promoted a "timeraiser" for Vision Vancouver on Monday at the Waldorf Hotel where items were auctioned in exchange for volunteer time. Thirty-three people pledged a total 336 hours for the campaign. The donors list included entities directly or indirectly reliant on city hall, such as H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, Science World, W2 Media Cafe and bar and nightclub owner Donnelly Group.

2010goldrush@gmail.com

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