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Fifth annual Vancouver Mural Festival kicks off, adapts to pandemic

Last Updated Aug 20, 2020 at 2:33 am PDT


The fifth annual Vancouver Mural Festival is expanding across the city

This year the festival is adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic by expanding across Vancouver

VANCOUVER (CityNews) — The Vancouver Mural Festival is marking its fifth year, celebrating the city’s diverse art scene. But because of the ongoing pandemic, the festival is adapting by expanding across the city.

The festival which is typically a huge street party has now expanded to multiple neighbourhoods.

Andrea Curtis, the director of operations, says the current changes are “kind of a flatten the curve festival.”

“We’ve spread it out over three weeks instead of one week, and instead of a large street party, generally with 150,000 people, we’re inviting people to visit different neighbourhoods, nine new neighbourhoods all over the city,” Curtis says.

One hundred and twenty-one murals are painted in Mt. Pleasant, and another 30 are in East Vancouver.

Laura Kwok is one of the artists working behind Strathcona Beer Company. She’s working on a piece called ‘Late Bloomer’ which is about discovery, change and self-growth.

“I think it’s really amazing to be able to add colour to the city, and also just to work on such a large scale on buildings – that’s always been my dream, so it’s amazing to actually do it,” she says. “I think it’s amazing ’cause they’ve done more murals this year, it’s over 60 murals so it’s double what they had before.”

She is behind one of 60 new murals painted this year.

Around a quarter of the creators are from First Nations communities.

“One we did with Musqueam artists and Indian artists to tell the story of the Komagata Maru ship that was turned away in the early 1900s,” Curtis says.

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted the work of muralists long before this year’s festival as boarded-up businesses in downtown Vancouver became canvases for hope.

“And what came out of that was really an opportunity for us to really look at how we do at our festival, while so many of the businesses and neighbours were realizing, ‘hey, this is actually exactly what we need at this moment,'” Curtis says.

To help art enthusiasts navigate the cross-city hunt for paint, a new app offers the locations of each mural, their accompanying artist statements, and short bios on the creatives that make it happen.

The festival runs until Aug. 18 to Sept. 7.