June 27, 2019 5:14 pm
Updated: June 28, 2019 2:31 am

Vandalism or veneration? Vancouver Park Board yanks memorial bench over home paint job

WATCH: The City of Vancouver is vowing to replace a memorial bench at Kits Beach because it does not conform after a paint job from the victim's family. Jordan Armstrong has more.


When Colin Mackay passed away four years ago, his family chose to celebrate his life with a memorial bench on Kits Point.

Now, the city is insisting the bench be removed, and some of his loved ones say they can’t believe officials’ logic.

At issue is a new paint job, painstakingly applied by Mackay’s surviving partner, Julia Goudkova.

WATCH: The Vancouver Park Board is planning to remove a newly painted memorial bench at Kits Beach

Goudkova told Global News she spent four days painting the bench after noticing it was looking run-down.

“We’re coming up on four years since his passing … and in visiting the benches recently, it’s been looking very weathered and grey and drab, and I just felt the strong inspiration to bring colour and life back into the bench,” Goudkova told Global News.

Julia Goudkova says her late partner’s memorial bench was looking “drab and grey” before she repainted it.

Jordan Armstrong / Global News

“I’ve been creating art all my life. It’s a way for me to process, to connect with others and to really share what is going on in the inside. For me, it’s a way that I also connect with my interpretation of the divine,” she added.

Goudkova said that the park board told her the paint job amounts to vandalism.

READ MORE: Memorial bench unveiled honoring murdered Alberta Indigenous woman

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Adding to her disbelief is the fact that the Vancouver Park Board had initially insisted the bench be removed by July 2 — the four-year anniversary of Mackay’s passing.

Mackay’s mother Bea said she’s also hoping the bench would be allowed to stay and believes her son would have been a fan of the artwork.

“He would have loved it,” she told Global News.

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“He was always promoting joy and encouraging [Julia] in her art and he would have loved that. It’s gorgeous. It’s art,” she said. “It’s not anything else — it’s art.”

The park board has since told Goudkova and the family the bench can stay until after July 2.

But the board is defending its position, saying that painting memorial benches is not allowed and that Mackay’s brother — who was unaware the bench had been painted — supports the removal.

However, when contacted by Global News, Angus Mackay says that’s not true.

“Given that the painting of benches is not allowed, the bench will be replaced with a new one,” said a park board spokesperson in an email.

The memorial plaque will be replaced on the new bench, the board said.

Goudkova disagrees with the board’s position and said that, while painting the bench, she was approached by hundreds of people who came to admire it or ask for the story behind the paint job.

One of those passersby, neighbour Craig Mcintosh, told Global News he was touched when he learned why Goudkova had taken out the paint brushes.

“We celebrated the fact that such a beautiful story could be told through the arts,” he said. “It’s just disappointing.

“These kinds of things are the breath of the community. It’s the reason that we’re all engaged in a time that maybe we’re disengaged through social media and have these little moments.”

Goudkova told Global News that the family still hopes to have a memorial at the site to remember Mackay’s passing.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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