A pandemic isn't stopping painters from participating in this year's Vancouver Mural Festival, which launched this week in nine neighbourhoods across the city.
The annual event, now in it's fifth year, has traditionally been concentrated in the Mount Pleasant and Strathcona areas but this year has expanded to include South Granville, Robson, the West End, downtown, Gastown, Marpole and the River District.
From Aug. 18 to Sept. 7, artists will create over 60 pieces of public art — and while the usual street party and beer gardens have been cancelled, free, limited-capacity walking tours are available for people who pre-register here.
For those who want to peruse at their leisure, festival organizers have launched a new app this year to help people locate and learn not only about the newest works of art, but also the nearly 200 that have been created since the festival's inception.
"There wasn't much of a mural scene until 2015, early 2016 when we really jumped into the deep end with it," said Lead Curator, Drew Young, on CBC's The Early Edition Wednesday.
Young said this year's expanded festival format was inspired by the appreciation the public showed in the early days of the pandemic after artists painted murals on the plywood used to protect shop windows in Vancouver when businesses were forced to close.
"We are moving in a direction where the city is very proud and loves to celebrate the artists," said Young. "It feels great to spread the love all over Metro Vancouver."
The three-week festival also features a pop-up open-air patio in East Vancouver where festivalgoers can reserve a table and enjoy live entertainment.
There are also digital components to this year's event. These include an online exhibition with prints for sale and a curated artist talk on anti-Black racism in public spaces and the experience of Black artists participating in the festival.
Earlier this month, Black artist Pearl Low said she was verbally attacked by a white man while painting a mural for the festival in the city's West End.