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Downtown Eastside artist featured at Emily Carr University exhibit

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Downtown Eastside artist featured at Emily Carr University exhibit
A one of a kind art exhibition has opened in Vancouver. It's the culmination of a course on the impact of graffiti culture, launched by a university professor. As Kristen Robinson reports, one of the guest lecturers, is a well known street artist, who honed his skills on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. – Apr 7, 2024

A one-of-a-kind art exhibition opened in Vancouver on Saturday.

The art exhibition is the culmination of a course on the impact of graffiti culture launched by a B.C. university professor.

One of the guest lecturers is well-known street artist Smokey D (James Hardy), who honed his skills in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“(Graffiti) is idolized in certain ways but then it’s villainized in other ways too,” Garnet Hertz said, an Emily Carr professor.

After getting back into skateboarding, Hertz said he was impressed by the quality of graffiti at Vancouver skate parks.

“There’s a level of dedication that was pretty hard to match in a lot of other artistic fields,” he told Global News.

That commitment inspired his course, which attempts to look at how graffiti functions in society.

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“Graffiti is probably impossible to get completely rid of but instead of banning it, I think an approach of encouraging is better … more interesting graffiti and more educated graffiti,” Hertz said.

With the guidance of Smokey D as a guest lecturer, the class designed and published a zine exploring graffiti culture.

Each student contributed to the final project now on display.

“I think it’s really cool,” Smokey D (James Hardy) said.

“This really opened up a lot of doors.”

From building community relationships in Chinatown by creating graffiti murals for local merchants to raising awareness about the overdose crisis, Smokey D has been a community advocate for years.

“He’s really made a name for himself and made a really positive view on the community,” Jenni Wenger said, a Smokey D supporter.

Only 20 Smokey D canvas paintings exist, with a few being shown at the exhibition, each priced between $10,000 to $40,000.

“It’s getting there,” Smokey D said. “About time … spent enough time in the trenches,”

The art gallery director where the exhibition is at grew up in the neighbourhood and has seen Smokey D’s art his entire life.

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“He’s a legend in my eyes and to be on my third show ever and already have him showing work of his in the gallery is kind of a dream come true for me,” Jack Topolewski said, Fingerprint Gallery’s founder and director.

For those that want to see the art, How to Appreciate Graffiti: the Exhibition runs through April 12 at the Fingerprint Gallery in Vancouver.

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