Guelph Park in East Vancouver was just like any other under-appreciated park in a city near you: grassy but forgettable. Until a fake sign was erected in one corner by a local artist, christening it with a new name: "Dude Chilling Park". Suddenly, Guelph/Dude Chilling Park became a global sensation.
The sign is by local artist Viktor Briestensky, who installed his work anonymously at first, in November of 2012. It looks pretty much exactly like other Vancouver park signs, and many people were confused about its origins — but they loved it. After the show of community support, in September of 2013, the city relocated the sign to a community garden in the park.
On Monday night, the Vancouver Park Board ruled that it will leave the sign, dubbing it public art. Although they're still not actually sure what the name means, exactly, according to Global News: "There is some debate in the community about whether or not the name is in reference to a statue in the park, or people who like to 'hang out' there."
But it's most likely inspired by a statue in the park: Reclining Figure by Michael Dennis.
The decision to keep the sign is the first victory for fans who have big plans for the park. Over 1859 people signed a petition to change the park's name officially to Dude Chilling Park, and the petition actually makes a pretty good case for why:
By renaming this lovely rectangle of grass to "Dude Chilling Park," people will give this little rectangle of nature the respect and attention it deserves. We all witnessed how much attention the park gained from just one day of social media posts on the internet. Imagine how much that attention can grow, given a little time and nurturing. Dude Chilling Park will become a destination, a place to meet with friends. Imagine a visitor from Toronto sharing his photo relaxing with the "chilling dude," instead of just another boring picture of him riding the downtown bull statue.
This idea is not as popular with some local residents, who claim they've worked hard to clean up the public space. They believe the sign degrades the neighbourhood. But I think the petitioners are right — bringing the park attention and visitors will only help to recruit more people to use and care for it, right?
If they do end up re-naming the park, it won't be the first instance I can think of where a fake sign has become official. In 2001, an artist named Richard Ankrom designed and installed a fake sign on the 110 freeway in downtown Los Angeles to help warn drivers about a tricky offramp. LADOT left it for 10 years and when they finally took it down, they replaced it with a sign that "accepted" Ankrom's changes. [Global News]
Picture: Vancouver Park Board