Uplifting and Engaging Community With My Art

This summer, ANHBC ran a design contest, inviting the artists of our communities to portray what the neighbourhood house movement means to them. We would like to spotlight our contest winner, Madeline Berger!


Moving to Vancouver at 18, Madeline sought out community through neighbourhood houses and other grassroots organizations. Such support networks enabled them to build meaningful friendships and grow as an individual – an experience familiar to many newcomers in our city. They got involved with the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House, distributing resources with the Distro Disco Mobile Free Store. As an avid veggie grower, they work as a farmer at City Beet Farm, whose produce contributes to food programs at Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House.


“I’m deeply appreciative for low cost resources and learning spaces like neighbourhood houses. They are rare and critical fixtures in communities and allow safe spaces for people to grow.”


Exploring “community building, friendships and skillsharing, and queer representation beyond the human form”, Madeline’s art style is dynamic, energetic, accessible and endearing. They entered the design competition as it “resonated with [their] values as an artist”.


“I actively strive to engage with and uplift my community with my art”.


Their design itself mirrors common neighbourhood house values of connectedness and collaborative growth in community support networks. It also showcases the importance of gardening, a passion for so many community members across neighbourhood houses.


“For my concept I chose to center a big, wobbly sunflower and the support networks of a garden, cohabitating, lifting each other up. Plants and pollinators sharing resources is essential to the biodiversity of the garden and that rings true to our networks as well.” 


With a closer look, you may realize that the image is composed of symbols that represent each neighbourhood house, camp and central office:

  • Alex House’s welcoming main building is featured on the top right leaf.
  • Cedar Cottage is growing out of a garden box at the bottom left of the sunflower, to symbolize their redevelopment.
  • The dragonflies scattered around the ecosystem represent Central Services staff, supporting wherever needed.
  • A frog sits at the foot of the sunflower for Frog Hollow.
  • The wild strawberries at the bottom right illustrate Gordon House’s food justice initiatives.
  • The native bee on the left side portrays Kits House.
  • Marpole Neighbourhood House’s fire hall building is growing out of a sprout at the foot of the sunflower.
  • Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House is sitting next to a bug at the top of the sunflower stem.
  • The canoe in the leaf pond depicts Sasamat Outdoor Centre at Sasamat Lake.
  • Salal berries at the bottom left symbolize food justice initiatives at South Van Neighbourhood House.


Look out for Madeline’s art appearing at your local neighbourhood house over the next few weeks!


Thank you Madeline for sharing your story.  


Madeline’s Instagram: @fungalmatters

Distro Disco's Instagram, Distro Disco's Facebook

Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House

City Beet Farm