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Community turns out to help restore defaced mural in Vancouver’s Chinatown

Click to play video: 'Artists invite community to help repair vandalized Chinatown mural' Artists invite community to help repair vandalized Chinatown mural
Vancouver's Chinatown has been hit with repeated graffiti vandalism but a particularly brazen attack last month struck a chord with the community and on Saturday, the artists behind a defaced mural invited the public to help restore their culturally sensitive work. Kristen Robinson reports – Apr 16, 2022

The Vancouver artists behind a culturally significant Chinatown mural defaced with graffiti vandalism last month invited people from the community to help repair their work on Saturday, and the response was overwhelming.

Between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., dozens lined up in the laneway at 218 East Georgia St. to repaint the ‘Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea’ artwork on the wall of the Liang You Book Co.

Read more: ‘Heartbreaking’: Mural defaced in Vancouver’s Chinatown as graffiti spree persists

“Seeing this is very touching and people are so supportive,” said mural artist Sean Cao with the Bagua Artist Association.

“There is a sense of ownership, and so that’s where the community effort comes in,” one woman named June told Global News.

Another woman named Savannah said she felt the need to pick up a brush, even though she’s never painted anything before.

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“I’ve lived in the neighbourhood for over forty years, and I really value the culture and symbols around me.”

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Chinatown businesses say combating graffiti through art not working – Mar 23, 2022

The mural, inspired by a well-known Chinese folktale about how each spirit overcomes adversities, promotes cultural redress and represents diversity and inclusiveness in the people of Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside.

The community was deeply disturbed when the piece was blatantly disrespected with bold black graffiti in March.

“I’m very, very upset,” Liang You Book Co. owner Peter Lau told Global News on March 23.

Chinatown artist Ken Lum said he was heartbroken when he heard about the vandalism, and offered to help Cao restore the piece.

“I asked him at that time, [we’ve] got to fix this,” said Lum.
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Read more: ‘An eyesore and an embarrassment’: What will it take to stop graffiti vandalism in Chinatown?

The brazen art attack was the breaking point for many in Chinatown, which has been repeatedly covered with graffiti during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Province willing to work with City of Vancouver to help stop Chinatown graffiti – Apr 8, 2022

Cao and artist Katharine Yi, the mural’s co-creator, wanted the public to be part of the solution, and organized the mural repair ‘social’ to bring people together through art and build a sense of community.

“We need to turn it into not just being angry. It’s about action,” said June.

“It feels a lot better to be doing this work.”

Read more: Province willing to work with City of Vancouver to help stop Chinatown graffiti

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Yi said watching the community help turn hurt into healing gave her a sense of “solidarity.”

“It just means that all of us are standing together to make this community better, and to treasure our public cultural assets,” Yi said.

Saturday’s event was supported by the City of Vancouver’s Chinatown Transformation Team and engineering services, the Chinatown Legacy Stewardship Group, Vancouver Moving Theatre, Youth Collaborative for Chinatown, Goodbye Graffiti and 221A.

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Legacy business owner starts petition to revive Chinatown and stop graffiti – Apr 2, 2022

Goodbye Graffiti initially covered up the black tags with a curtain before power washing some of the unwanted graffiti off.

“Because of the theme of this [mural], it hits home a little bit,” Lum said.

“It’s quite personal.”

Read more: Chinatown business owner launches petition to stop vandalism and ‘hell pattern’ graffiti

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The black marks that could not be removed were painted over by the public. Cao and Yi will finish the mural restoration before adding a permanent graffiti deterring coat.

“It’s not about our mural but it’s about, you know, everyone,” Cao said.

“In the future when people walk by, they can probably say, Oh hey I contributed to that,” added Yi.

“It becomes everyone’s, not just to the artists. It’s the community’s.”

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