Murals for the city

Mogo mural. | Photo by Nelson Mouellic

The next instalment in the Lulu Series: Art in the City will focus on the Vancouver Mural Festival.

Co-founder and executive director of the Festival, David Vertesi, will be speaking on behalf of a group that strives to create connections and discussion with public art, at the Richmond City Hall on March 9.

Murals as accessible public art

One of the many organizations and celebrations that have spawned from the rise of public art, the Vancouver Mural Festival had its inaugural event last August and is now planning for next summer. Fifty-three murals were created for the event in Mount Pleasant, Strathcona and the False Creek Flats, and the result was a huge variety of designs and images on the otherwise blank walls of the area, created by a large number of both local and international artists.

“It was a really great way to bring out artists and create public artwork that is accessible,” says Ola Volo, one of the artists who participated in the event. Volo is an artist and illustrator in Vancouver, originally from Kazakhstan. She is inspired by history, multiculturalism and folklore. “We have a beautiful city full of creative people, but the streets have bare walls. Hopefully we were able to inspire people who live here and form connections that will last a lifetime,” Volo says.

The artists who were a part of the Festival were given a wall, along with its dimensions, where it is, and suggestions for what sort of story or imagery would be best suited for it. From there they were given complete freedom for their designs, before presenting it to the city for final approval.

“I think that was the beauty of the Festival,” says Volo. “When you’re celebrating art for the sake of art you are able to express yourself, and it really becomes a personal piece. That’s why they’re so special – each piece is a very personal glimpse of someone because there was no guidance. It’s an honest way to present the art community.”

A muralist’s work

Volo began creating murals in 2012, and since then has worked on projects both locally and overseas. Seeing how art can shape a room, a building or a public area is what launched her interest in mural making, and the ability to share stories is one of the most important parts of it for her.

“I feel like when I put these stories on the wall, it’s creating accessible artwork that people can reflect and have an opinion on. It needs to live on the streets, in the public, because if it’s in front of you and accessible you are forced to react somehow.”

It takes around five to six days for Volo to put her artwork onto the wall itself, and usually a couple of weeks to fully design it. She doesn’t have any set design patterns, tailoring each piece to the wall and the area it’s located in.

“Each piece is individual,” says Volo. “It’s important to do artwork in that manner so that it has a purpose, and reflects on the environment around it.”

Street art has grown a lot over the last few decades, and has become more popular and welcomed in the public eye. Murals like those made for the Festival attract people from all over the world, their style and form appealing to many people from all walks of life.

“I think it’s the rawness of the process, the fact that it’s in public,” says Volo. “It’s not polished, it feels more human. I think it’s a beautiful way to bring people together.”

For more information on the Vancouver Mural Festival, visit For more information on the Lulu Series talk, visit