And blue and green and every other colour imaginable. Forty-one murals on twenty-one buildings spread throughout a central corridor in midtown Vancouver – that’s the legacy created Vancouver’s first Mural Festival, its founder David Vertesi and curator Drew Young. Inspired, in part, by street art in Montreal, Miami and San Francisco, the duo have mobilized property owners, City Hall and the city’s arts community to bring a splash of joy and colour to Canada’s west coast metropolis in what, they hope, will become an annual event.
“I’ve worked with over 300 local painters, illustrators and tattoo artists over the years at events and installations,” says Festival Director and curator Drew Young who also runs Snag, a live painting night at a local hotel, a fixture in the city’s alternative arts community. “A lot of them haven’t painted murals so seeing them go to the next level is really awesome,” he says.
Vancouver Mural Festival Director and Curator Drew Young
Funded by a grant from the City and with help from a major arts foundation and the local business community, the team selected a roster of thirty-nine locals and six invited international artists, many of them household names in their respective countries. The artists took to the streets in early August and unveiled their works to the public August 20th.
Subject matter runs from the decorative to the political. Representational figures, symbols and huge blocks of colour – there are no restrictions on style – dot the area’s warehouses, stores and coffee shops. Street art or graffiti? Graffiti is often associated with tagging and rebellion but it doesn’t matter. There are no constraints on influences either.
“Graffiti gets downplayed,” says Young. “It gets thrown in the gutter quite often but some of the most amazing talents have come from that scene. Half the roster have probably written graffiti, liked it or been influence by it.”
Vancouver has the highest concentration of artists per capita in Canada and although the city is well-served by public art, there are still not enough venues for locals to do their stuff. Vertesi and Young designed the Festival as another outlet for artists run by artists but these permanent installations benefit the community too. “Being in a position where we can bring people together and impress the public and also inspire is really nice,” says Young who wants to expand the venue and bring in even more participants next year.
All Images © John Thomson