When the news of the COVID-19 pandemic broke, citizens across BC wanted to find ways to show their appreciation for the heroes of this pandemic. Communities started nightly 7:00 pm celebrations as a means of showing their appreciation for everyday heroes who are serving on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19. Households around the province have put up rainbows in their windows as messages of hope and encouragement for their community.
Community members, businesses, and organizations have also banded together to use their shared resources to produce protective gear for healthcare and frontline staff. Grassroots and volunteer-run, these groups 3D print items for face shields and ear savers. Thousands of face shields have already been sent around the province to help protect workers. Sewers have also risen to the challenge with individuals and organizations, such as the Vancouver Opera’s costume shop, producing cloth masks for front line workers.
Many businesses and shops in downtown Vancouver have shut their doors in an effort to curve the Covid-19 outbreak. Most have boarded up their doors and window and now artists are turning those pieces of plywood into pieces of art celebrating and honouring healthcare and frontline heroes. The murals celebrate heroes like Canada’s public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam and BC’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry as well as nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists and Vancouverites who are doing their part by staying home. What started spontaneously has grown to over 50 murals and now has the support of the Vancouver Mural Festival behind it. The Vancouver Mural Festival supports artists in the city and facilitates the publics’ connection to free, open and public art and is working to ensure artists have the supplies they need and the access to resources while still staying safe and following social distancing measures. While the Mural Festival has been able to support artists in creating these hero murals, members of the public are still being encouraged to do our part and practice social distancing.
These murals are public art that not many members of the public can see. Museums provide a space for reflection and an opportunity to time travel; they serve as a place for our collective memory and many museums and archives have already started the process of collecting and documenting this pandemic. These murals, and the heroes they celebrate, may just find themselves on display in museums for years to come.