City’s Culture, Arts and Heritage Program awarded VDA $20,000 in grants for project
VANCOUVER — Thanks to $20,000 in grant money from the city of Vancouver’s Culture, Arts and Heritage program, Vancouver’s Downtown Association (VDA) is launching two projects to improve the city.
The projects are connected, bringing new amenities and aesthetics to parts of downtown. Multiple locations will receive decorative mural paintings along the roadways, in addition to the side of a parking structure. New bike locking stations will also be installed near some of the murals.
“The city prior to COVID, had the culture, heritage and arts program that was launched, and they were allocating about $400,000 for art projects throughout the city of Vancouver,” said Michael Walker, the executive director of VDA. “We saw it as a great opportunity to apply to kind of help beautify our downtown districts.”
Mural artists from around the region have been commissioned to help with the project, and videos documenting the process will be created soon, Walker said. The project is a partnership with several other businesses and organizations in Vancouver.
The mural painting began earlier this month, but has been slightly postponed due to wildfire smoke in the region.
The two mural sites, one on 8th Street and Main and the other on 12th Street and Main near The Source climbing gym, will serve both artistic and utility uses. At 8th Street, a mural of Mt. St. Helens will soon be adorned with new bike racks to offer cyclists more secure and ergonomically friending lock-up spots.
At 12th Street near The Source, the mural will cover all walkways in the intersection with Main. The parking garage there will also have some of the sprawling mural wrapping up its side, Walker said.
“This is a very immersive experience for the pedestrian walking through that area, art on the wall, art on the ground and art in the parklet,” Walker said. “There’s a lot of things that you would never think about until you have to do a street mural. Paint that’s really durable, using the type of paint that’s for road striping and just making sure it’s the correct consistency with how it spreads and the colors against black. There’s a lot of logistics behind that.”
The project has been going for over a year now, with the help of association volunteers and community partnerships.
Vancouver School of Arts and Academics (VSAA) partnered with VDA to help design the bike lock stations, which are also decorated with pacific northwest imagery.
Working with a biking group for feedback, a group of about six students from the school worked on the designs of two traditional, staple racks.
The simplicity was on purpose, though, Walker notes. Many of the existing bike racks in the city are actually too focused on aesthetic and being decorative to provide easy security, he said.
“With COVID, we’ve had to pivot the project a lot,” Walker added. “We actually had an artist from Canada coming in, but with the COVID restrictions had to cut that. Not in a bad way, it’s been a really long process and really, really collaborative. I can’t emphasize enough, it’s been a volunteer driven process.”