interviews the writting on the wall murals
The Globe and Mail
National Publication
Vancouver — Published on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009

Protest mural comes full circle, now back on gallery wall

photo by colleen heslin
by Marsha Lederman

An anti-Olympics mural that was ordered taken down by the City of Vancouver under its graffiti bylaw is back up. The artist, Jesse Corcoran, has reinstalled the mural outside the Crying Room gallery on the city's Downtown Eastside.

"The way I looked at it, that whole argument for taking it down was that it was graffiti," Mr. Corcoran said. "It was in [the newspaper] explaining that it wasn't graffiti, so I didn't see how there'd be an issue with me putting it back up."

The mural, black paint on varnished wood, depicts the Olympic rings as four sad faces and one happy face: an expression of Mr. Corcoran's feeling that the majority are suffering for an event that benefits only the minority.

Mr. Corcoran reinstalled the mural on the weekend with the blessing of gallery owner Colleen Heslin, who has been in touch with the city since the issue was publicized last week in The Globe and Mail. City councillor Geoff Meggs told her he didn't foresee any problems if she reinstalled the mural, so she felt it was safe to go ahead.

"It was good to talk to the city and get some clarity on some of these issues," Ms. Heslin said.

Mr. Meggs said it's great that the mural is back up, but added he is not critical of city staff for ordering it removed in the first place. "From my standpoint, it was really a classic bureaucratic snafu. Certainly there's been no direction given to go and remove things that are critical of the Olympics by any means. But staff are not out doing art criticism; they're doing graffiti enforcement."

The Games begin on Feb. 12. Mr. Corcoran said he plans to leave the mural up for a week or so and would then like to auction it off, with proceeds going to a Downtown Eastside shelter. Mr. Corcoran himself works with marginalized people in the Downtown Eastside.

He is also musing about printing the image on T-shirts or a more Winter Olympics-friendly medium and distributing the items for free as a way to publicize his message. He said if that violates VANOC's branding rules, he'll consider altering the image so it's just the faces without the Olympic rings.

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