Iconic storefront murals in downtown Vancouver saved for public display

May 27 2020, 11:15 pm

The vast majority of the storefront boarding, many painted with elaborate murals, in downtown Vancouver have been removed, as businesses have reopened or are in the process of reopening.

But not all of the wooden boards with murals have been thrown out, as the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA) has saved at least 10 of the 23 murals that have come down in their district.

Many of these murals carried poignant themes of appreciation, hope, and solidarity for those struggling from the crisis and working on the front lines.

“There were decisions about which ones to save. We want to get the iconic ones that will resonate with people and make a connection with COVID-19 and the salute to healthcare workers,” Charles Gauthier, the president and CEO of the DVBIA, told Daily Hive.

He said the large mural by artist Will Phillips at Colony Bar, depicting healthcare workers, was one of the notable works saved.

Created by Will Phillips. (Gabriel Martins)

Now that the boards are in storage, he says his team is trying to find new safe and accessible locations where the public can enjoy these works of art. Over the interim period, Gauthier wants the murals to stay within his district, before finding them permanent homes to preserve this history.

“They will be part of Vancouver’s history as it relates to this pandemic. We know it’s going to have some value to become a story on what Vancouver did during these rough times,” said Gauthier.

The DVBIA has received some offers from property owners to put them up as a temporary or permanent display, but Gauthier says they are prioritizing accessible locations that do not require access into a building. But there are some exceptions; they are exploring temporary installations in the Pendulum Gallery of the HSBC office tower’s lobby, which is a city-owned space managed by the bank.

Another emerging idea is to place some of these murals at SkyTrain stations in the city centre, specifically Vancouver City Centre, Waterfront, and Burrard.

If they are placed in a laneway, the boards will be installed high enough to discourage anyone from vandalizing the murals — an additional safety measure to the graffiti protection coating.

Gauthier adds that they have not had any conversations yet with the Museum of Vancouver and Vancouver Art Gallery, but these are options they will consider.

The Museum of Vancouver is in the possession of about a dozen of the handwritten message-covered wooden boards that were used to cover up broken windows at downtown’s Hudson’s Bay store in the aftermath of the 2011 Stanley Cup Riot.

Earlier in the crisis, the Vancouver Mural Festival commissioned 40 murals on boarded storefronts in downtown Vancouver and South Granville. The initiative of using the wooden boards as a canvas for art began shortly after the boarding went up, as a measure by businesses and property owners to deter vandalism and theft.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

+ News
+ Public Art
+ Urbanized
+ Coronavirus