Shortly after we arrived home from our European adventures, news about the inaugural Vancouver Mural Fest (VMF) showed up in our newsfeeds, and we were immediately excited for the street art that would add a creative touch to the city's facade. We downloaded the digital map and made plans to explore the familiar streets of East Vancouver with new eyes.
In any city we've visited, we always make a point of seeking out the unique artwork hidden amongst the streetscape, be they murals, sculptures, installations - pieces that breathe life into otherwise unremarkable spaces, and all enjoyed at no cost.
Vancouver has not been immune to this phenomenon, hosting many excellent examples of outdoor art, most notably the Biennale, whose currated open air museum pieces have become a source of pride for many in the city. Numerous murals grace the formerly barren walls of shops in our own neighbourhood of Commercial Drive, depicting its character and history.
But never has there been such a large scale effort to bring permanent artworks to the streets all at once. Artists, both local and international, spent the weeks prior to August 20th working in secrecy to create over 35 diverse and beautiful murals, some hidden in alleyways, and others of full display rising high above street level.
It was an amazing experience to spend our evening wandering the outdoor museum and witness the incredible talent of artists likely unknown by most onlookers until now.
Apart from the day's festivities and crowds coming together to enjoy the creative display, what makes the festival, and street art in general, so special is that it is not an exclusive event, attended for just an evening and then packed away, inaccessible to the masses. The artworks created for VMF will be enjoyed for weeks, months and years to come, and by people of all means.
Collections of street art, murals, installations and the like create giant outdoor museums that enhance the public realm. They add colour to otherwise grey, dreary spaces, and inspire creativity, with the canvas nothing more than the built and natural environment. But more importantly, they bring art outside of the museums and galleries, to spaces that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and economic means.
Cities around the world need to continually recognize the value of investing in public art projects. They provide opportunities for local artists to display their talents to a wide and varied audience, and enhance our experience of the city in new and positive ways.
For our part, after making the dedicated trip to check out the artworks of VMF, we now want to expand that effort and re-discover many of the city's other hidden gems - artworks perhaps forgotten about over time, or, as in the case of many on Commercial Drive, taken for granted as just always being there.
It has inspired a new pride in our city, and a desire to protect the creativity and colour on display in the place we call home. We hope that this is a tradition that continues for years to come, and are excited to experience the talent of an artistic community hard at work behind the scenes to bring imagination, individuality and life to the blank canvases of our everyday.