Painting Mr. Chi Pig, A Punk Rock Legend Who Lived Out His Days in the Downtown Eastside

·3 min read

A mural in memory of a legend of the Vancouver and Edmonton punk rock scene is going up at the Cambie Pub in Gastown.

Kendall Chinn, also known as Mr. Chi Pig, was a fixture of the Downtown Eastside for years, known for holding court at bars like the Cambie, Pub 340, Funky Winker Beans and other venues. He died July 16 at the age of 57.

Chinn was the frontman of the Edmonton-based punk bank SNFU and was known for his intense live performances, over-the-top fashion sense and wicked sense of humour. He moved to Vancouver in the early 1990s, and was also a prolific visual artist.

He was openly gay in the early 1990s when that was rare for a punk rock musician, and in the 2009 documentary Open Your Mouth and Say Mr. Chi Pig, he spoke candidly about his struggles with addiction and schizophrenia.

“He was a wild, crazy guy with a ton of energy,” Joe Keithley, a member of renowned Vancouver punk band D.O.A. and now a Burnaby city councillor, told Vancouver Co-op Radio host David Ball in an interview that aired this August.

“He inspired people that way and he was funny and sarcastic and talented and moody. He was strong and weak all at the same time.”

Jameson Trenholm works at the Cambie Pub, where he got to know Chi Pig well. Chinn would visit the pub almost daily and often made art there.

“When he passed, I thought holy smokes — we have to honour the Gastown and Vancouver and world legend,” Trenholm said.

Trenholm started a GoFundMe page to raise money for the mural, and the Cambie Pub donated the space. The fundraiser’s goal of raising $5,000 has now been reached, so any extra money will be donated to a foundation Chi Pig’s family is starting in his honour. The foundation will be focused on mental health and addictions.

Trenholm said he hopes the mural will stay up for at least two years.

Artists Layla Folkmann and Lacey Jane Wilburn took on the project, and it’s a labour of love for the friends who also run an art practice together. The artists hope to paint a similar mural in Chi Pig’s hometown of Edmonton.

Like Chi Pig, Folkmann and Wilburn are originally from Edmonton, and SNFU played a huge part in their lives. Folkmann was introduced to SNFU by her dad, and describes herself as a “second generation punk rocker.”

“We grew up as punk rock kids in the scene,” Wilburn said. “SNFU was one of those humongous moments, when we got to go seem them live.”

Keithley said the last time he saw Chi Pig, “He was doing OK but not super great — he was wandering from bar to bar trying to sell artwork. I think between tours, it was pretty tough.”

An artist to the end, Chi Pig recorded a song called “Cement Mixer” that was released the day he died. In the song, Chi Pig visualizes his last resting place in a cement mixer to become part of the pavement and the ultimate “dead man around town.”

“Goodbye to all my friends,” the song concludes. “Gonna miss you guys.”

Jen St. Denis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee