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White Rock eyes murals and more for city's exterior walls

More than three dozen people turned out to the White Rock Community Centre Thursday night to talk about decorative walls in the city. - Tracy Holmes photo
More than three dozen people turned out to the White Rock Community Centre Thursday night to talk about decorative walls in the city.
— image credit: Tracy Holmes photo

Colourful murals capturing snippets of the past could soon be adorning White Rock’s city-owned and private walls.

Mosaics – patterns of stone, tile or glass – are another form of public art being eyed to spruce up various exterior ‘canvases’ throughout the city, along with green and relief walls.

Ideas for what would be the best fit were discussed Thursday during a forum on decorative wall art hosted by the city at the White Rock Community Centre.

Attended by more than three dozen people – including several local artists – the evening was highlighted by a presentation by White Rock-born muralist Richard Tetrault.

Tetrault, who has collaborated with artists in Mexico, Cuba, Argentina and Canada, showcased some of the wall-art projects he has been part of, including a number co-ordinated for the Eastside Mural Tour.

Gasps of appreciation met a slideshow detailing painting that graces the exterior of Vancouver’s Russian Hall. The work, on Campbell Avenue, transformed three walls – about 6,000 square feet – to resemble a decorative music box.

A piece called Through the Eye of the Raven, painted in 2010, covers a six-storey wall of the Orwell Hotel on East Hastings Street. It’s visible from across town, Tetrault noted, explaining the different aspects of the aboriginal-themed work.

Tetrault said a Commercial Drive wall that was transformed in 2002 with 12-foot-diameter mosaics is an example of how public art can change more than just the look of a wall.

“It really changed people’s habits of walking on the street… really revitalized this area of Commercial Drive,” he said.

Forum attendee Jane Kline said she thinks the idea of increasing such art in White Rock is a “great idea.”

“Love it,” Kline said.

Kline told others that visitors she introduced to White Rock this past summer as a volunteer tour guide were enthralled by existing murals they were shown, including The Whaling Wall on Russell Avenue and a mural by Elizabeth Hollick that graces the north wall of Blue Frog Studio on Johnston Road.

With more works, “we could attract many, many people… to this little jewel,” Kline said.

Costs of various new projects depend on size and medium, with maintenance costs likely to be highest for “green” walls that feature living things, such as flowers, shrubs and small trees.

Claire Halpern, the city’s manager of cultural development, said one of the biggest challenges with public art is “not everybody’s going to love it.”

Leisure services manager Eric Stepura said the city will work with property owners to rejuvenate “tired” walls, but if they’re not interested “we’ll look at other alternatives.”

Asked if the city is considering developing a policy that would require developers to contribute to a mural fund, Mayor Wayne Baldwin said no, but pointed to the density bonus/amenity contribution policy that was passed by council in April. It implements a flat rate for developers who want to build taller than three storeys in the town centre. Those funds aren’t earmarked for such projects, but could benefit them, Baldwin said.

The mayor added that the city already has a public-art fund established that currently has about $150,000 and, when asked if sponsors will be sought for whatever wall projects are decided on, said “oh, yes.”

 

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