Community seeks help from graffiti artists after fixing degraded mural in Vancouver’s Chinatown

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“There was a feeling that so many different parts of the community and the city were part of the mural and protected,” what it symbolizes. — Katherine Yi

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The ‘Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea’ mural in Chinatown that was defaced with graffiti has been repaired and, in its wake, the community is seeking support against the tagging of graffiti on artwork and owned property. businesses and organizations in the region.

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According to organizers, more than 100 people from inside and outside the Chinatown community attended a recent “repair event” to repair the mural.

It had originally taken four artists almost 12 hours a day for two weeks to create the mural. In late March, it was destroyed when graffiti taggers covered parts of it and the signage of a small nearby bookstore with large black speech bubbles and squiggles.

Those who came to paint the damaged sections of the mural included other Chinatown artists, tenants, residents, business owners and members of various associations. There were also city councilors and others shocked by the defacement of the mural, which had been commissioned to promote cultural repair and mitigate graffiti.

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The incident prompted the frail, 77-year-old owner of Liang You Book Co., a Chinese-language bookstore in eastern Georgia that has been in operation for more than 40 years, to speak of the mental stress of repeated and uncontrolled vandalism on small, business owners. ‘Chinatown legacy businesses like him and the need for accountability.

“There was a feeling that so many different parts of the community and the city were part of the mural and protected,” said Katherine Yi, one of the artists and member of a Vancouver collective called the Bagua Artist. Association.

Artists Sean Cao and Katharine Yi in front of their mural which was vandalized in Chinatown in late March.
Artists Sean Cao and Katharine Yi in front of their mural which was vandalized in Chinatown in late March. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

The repair effort was also praised by longtime graffiti artist Jaime Hardy, known as Smokey D, who posted on the Vancouver Coalition of Graffiti Writers’ Facebook page: , dissipated parts, roofs and floating spots in Vancouver that you shouldn’t have to fuck up, other artists have created masterpieces that mean something to them.

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Chinatown community organizer June Chow said talk of graffiti in Chinatown “has largely come from a place of hurt and outrage, which needs to run its course.”

Then, she said, there must be solutions that come out of conversations within and between communities. She said it was important for visible members of the graffiti community, who have social capital among their peers, to speak out against the tagging of the Chinatown mural.

“I’m so glad we built this connection instead of blaming everyone else in the graffiti community,” said fellow mural artist and Bagua member Sean Cao.

“These guys that hit this place (Chinatown mural), I don’t know them personally. I met two of them on another occasion and I don’t support that, what they did,” Trey said. Helten, chief executive of the Overdose Prevention Society, which oversees the graffiti artists’ Facebook page and spoke about the use of graffiti in the Downtown Eastside to quickly and widely communicate important messages about substance use or health issues.

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“There are different spots they could have hit like the alleyway adjacent to the one with the Seven Immortals mural. It has some nice graffiti. They could have taken the ladder and gone off to do those bubble letter throws at the above the graffiti, in the next alley.

Smokey D’s posts and comments on Postmedia have focused on being against tagging graffiti on the work of other artists, which he considers disrespectful.

He stopped short of tackling graffiti on the walls, windows and signage of businesses, associations and organizations in Chinatown, where vandalism has included racist graffiti.

But in response to questions from Postmedia, Helten said, “There are so many other places to paint. It’s not hard to avoid a short five blocks’, which make up the heart of Chinatown.

jlee-young@postmedia.com


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