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Vancouver Mural Festival launches as support for public murals grows

Ten-day festival to provide new murals in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster
VMF creative director Natalia Lebedinskaia stands in front of a mural at 875 East Cordova St. The Vancouver Mural Festival, runs Aug. 4-13.

Artists are set to paint 20 new murals across the Lower Mainland thanks to the Vancouver Mural Festival (VMF), which is set to run Aug. 4-13.

Murals are planned in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster, VMF creative director Natalia Lebedinskaia told BIV.

The festival is to take place soon after the outpouring of support for East Vancouver brewery Storm Brewing's nearly decade-old mural.

Vancouver city council last night passed a motion to allow Storm Brewing to keep its promotional artwork, and to direct city staff to look into “modernizing” city bylaws on murals on business properties.

The brewery last week let it be known that city officials issued it with a bylaw infraction notice and a demand to remove its mural because, according to brewery owner James Walton, its imagery depicted alcohol and drunkenness.

Beer pours out of kegs in the mural, and rats appear to have imbibed some of that brew.

Vancouver city Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung, who moved last night’s motion, told BIV that murals make the city fun and that she would like to see more of them.

"People love public art," she said. "It makes the city vibrant and fun and interesting. [Murals] are a creative expression of who we are in terms of people, and cultural diversity. It humanizes the public realm and the city."

Artists painting VMF murals get paid between $2,000 and $20,000 for work on the projects, Lebedinskaia said, with that compensation being about 25 per cent of the overall cost of the murals they create, she said.

Some VMF murals have corporate sponsorship.

"GWL Realty is sponsoring a mural in Yaletown, which is on top of the Jennifer Kostuik Gallery [at 1070 Homer St.,]" she Lebedinskaia said.

Wesgroup Properties is paying for some murals in the River District neighbourhood that it developed.

Other businesses set to get murals include Jingle Bao Restaurant at 774 Denman St., and Ofiswerks by Formwerks at 234 West 3rd Ave., Lebedinskaia said. 

Registered non-profit organization Create Vancouver Society, which does business as VMF, is hosting the festival. It operates year-round with a variety of projects, such as partnerships with Vancouver Coastal Health to provide murals at their facilities, she added.

VMF also hosts a large winter event called VMF Winter Arts, which is a free all-ages festival with events in downtown Vancouver.

The parent organization's annual budget is around $3 million, with much of that coming from government grants, public and private sponsorship, money from business improvement associations and proceeds from events, Lebedinskaia said.

The organization employs 15 people year-round, with that number almost doubling during the festival, she said.

Working at the festival can be attractive.

Its board of directors is seeking to hire an executive director, who would earn between $96,000 and $106,000 annually plus benefits, depending on experience, according to VMF's website.

This year's summer VMF festival not only aims to brighten public space and make streetscapes more interesting with new murals, but it is also hosting a street party, Aug. 10-13, at the festival's hub City Centre Artist Lodge at 2111 Main St. in Vancouver, and surrounding streets.

That lodge was a motel before Nicola Wealth Real Estate during the pandemic bought it, and on a temporary basis is allowing it to become an artist hub.

Other events that are part of the VMF extravaganza include a ticketed disco Pride party at the Cobalt & Boxcar, at 917 Main St.

The festival first launched in 2016 and took place in reduced capacity during the pandemic.

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