Will murals be a more common sight in Vancouver?

A mural in the Bushwick neighbourhood of Brooklyn. Photo by Andy Longhurst.

As reported in the Vancouver Courier, Councillor Raymond Louie wants to see the $250 fee for painting a mural on a home or business ended.

Murals are a very common sight in San Francisco and New York, as I really noticed and enjoyed on a recent trip to both cities. They add life to the built environment in ways that we don’t often see in Vancouver. Murals create an important sense of place. There are a number of murals on Commercial Drive and in parts of East Van and the Downtown Eastside, but murals are pretty uncommon in other parts of the city.

Often the murals reflect the politics and struggles of particular neighbourhoods and peoples, serving as an important reminder.

A mural on the edge of San Francisco’s downtown. Photo by Andy Longhurst.

My only concern is that with Vancouver’s overly regulated urban culture as Matt Hern argues in Common Ground in a Liquid City, the city might attempt to control the content of murals in a way that doesn’t allow for neighbourhoods to address issues of social injustice and comment on the struggles of marginalized groups. I would argue that the mural is often inherently political – and that is why they provide such a powerful commentary of urban social relations. We know that the city has previously attempted to control expression through murals by demanding the removal of a mural which was critical of the Olympics.

We’ll have to see where this goes. What do you think?

Andy Longhurst

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