Shepard Fairey's 'Earth Justice' Mural
In August 2019, Burrard Arts Foundation announced Surface Series, a new large-scale, rotating public art program in the heart of Vancouver. The program will feature prominent national and international contemporary artists practicing in a variety of mediums including painting, photography, text, digital and more.
Surface Series officially launched on August 7, 2019, with a work titled Earth Justice from renowned artist Shepard Fairey, the American graphic artist and social activist perhaps best known for his iconic Hope (2008) portrait for then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. Located at the intersection of Burrard and Georgia, his artwork was revealed on the west facade of the Burrard Building, spanning over 10,000 square feet. This first iteration of Surface Series was presented in collaboration with Vancouver Mural Festival.
Christian Chan, Founder and Director of Burrard Arts Foundation was interviewed to discuss the new series and its first installation.
What impact do you hope the Surface Series will have on the City of Vancouver?
“Arts and culture (and in particular public art) are a primary means to spark creative inspiration, foster civic discourse, promote cultural understanding and build social capital. Vancouver has seen exponential economic and urban growth over the last several decades, and we are excited to be part of a collective effort to ensure that platforms for arts and culture grow commensurately. We are encouraged by cities like New York, London, Boston and Seattle who have made it a priority to place bold and large-scale public art installations in the hearts of their cities and public spaces; we believe Vancouver deserves the same.”
Why did you choose the name Surface Series?
“The name was conceived partially due to the physical characteristics of the installation (located on a large exterior facing wall), as well as partially from the concept that much of what we consider to be city life (including how and where we interact with each other) happens in the public realm or the city’s “surface”.”
How will Surface Series improve the urban environment through creative placemaking and the enhancement of civic space?
“Public art, in general, has been proven to enhance public spaces and experiences in a number of ways, including (but not limited to) opportunities for people to gather and connect, to participate in cultural exchange, to attract visitors and promote economic development, to learn and be inspired, and then, of course, to simply infuse beauty into peoples’ daily lives, which is like food for the soul, improving morale and wellbeing.”
Why did you choose Shepard Fairey for the launch of the Surface Series project?
“The opportunity to work with Shepard on this particular project was immense, given the artist’s ability to capture the public imagination and generate positive dialogue around ideas and issues of importance to this generation. The artist’s Earth Crisis body of work, of which this installation will be a part of, is a particularly salient subject for Vancouver.
In addition to that, the palette that Shepard utilizes in his work will add a vibrant touch of colour into the urban fabric, and hopefully, provide a moment of delight and respite when people encounter it in an area that’s largely characterized by hustle and bustle.”
What impact do you hope that Earth Justice will have on the City of Vancouver?
“We live in one of the most environmentally conscious cities on earth, and one that is proudly striving to be the world’s greenest city by 2020 (that’s next year). What a better way to reiterate our commitment to this outcome and galvanize our citizens around such an important goal than to have a bold and beautiful artistic statement of that commitment in the ceremonial center of our city?”
What, if any, action do you hope people will take after seeing this artwork?
“There are so many ways that people can take personal everyday action to improve the environment, and/or lessen their footprint – from consuming less single-use plastics, to using alternative modes of transportation (walking, biking, mass transit), to being more mindful about use of water and electricity, to contributing their time and resources to non-profits who are doing important work in the community or around the world, and so much more. We would be proud of this work stood as a reminder for people to take any of these actions on a regular basis.”
Do you think that art will encourage people to take action to combat climate change? Why is this important?
“I believe that art has the power to affect many positive attitudes, outlooks and things in the lives of people and the world, and supporting a healthier planet is no exception. This is important because we need to acknowledge the importance of every person to do their part, and not be resigned that an individual can’t make an impact. It’s time to start thinking long-term and generationally.”
Who will be next?
“The Surface Series selection committee, comprised of a diverse group of community members and stakeholders, will work together to determine the appropriate artist, medium and subject matter for the next installation. We are excited to share more when we are further along in the process.”
As the first modern curtain wall building in the Vancouver built in the 1950s, the Burrard Building has always been a symbol of a forward-thinking ideology and a harbinger of the City’s future. - How has it been a symbol of this?
“The fact that it was the first curtain wall building is the reason (I contend) that the Burrard Building is a symbol of progressive thought and practice. Curtain wall buildings are buildings that do not use the exterior walls as part of the structural system and can, therefore, consist of all glazing/glass facades. As you can imagine, being the first all-glass façade high rise in a city would have been a spectacular and very forward-thinking accomplishment at the time (1950’s).”