Shortly after Georgia Hunter’s mother passed away, she spent $200 on a Christmas gift for her father to have Teresa Waclawik paint her parents’ faces on a Cambie Village mural. The mural was torn down by new owners this year.
The Hunter family’s faces was two parts of the 261 participants along with 15 dogs and six cats who were in Waclawik’s 2005 fundraising project for Covenant House titled The Face of Vancouver. It took her more than three years to complete the large mural on the corner of Cambie Street and West 18th Avenue. Each face cost patrons $100, and donations raised for Covenant House totalled $13,000.
Since JJ Bean moved into the corner location and started renovations last week, the colourful mural was dismantled in sections and discarded. Company owner John Neate says the coffee house received permission from the city to put two large openings in the walls to access the patio.
“We had planned on keeping the mural as much as we could, and when we opened up the wall, we discovered the whole bottom half of the wall was rotted, the stucco had never been properly rain screened,” he said.
“We followed all the process that we’re supposed to and we’re now the bad guy … I feel sorry for the artist…”
Neate added he was upset with recent media coverage painting JJ Bean as the “bad guy.”
The mural has been a fixture in the Cambie Village beloved by many including Sahara Exodus who watched Waclawik work on it over the years and befriended the artist. Exodus wrote an email to JJ Bean expressing concern over the dismantling after she learned JJ Bean was moving in.
“This is very special, as it represents so many ‘personal faces’ of our district residents! Please seriously consider the impact it will have on your business, and the lives of our cherished sacred space long before entering it.”
Exodus told the Courier she sympathizes with JJ Bean but wished the owners would have researched the mural’s history before removing it.
Since news of the removal spread, Waclawik has received an outpouring of messages from community members saddened to see the mural go.
“People took ownership of the wall, because it was their wall. They paid to be on it,” said Waclawik.
Hunter was especially upset over the lack of notice about the dismantling. She said the owners didn’t put enough effort in to preserve the mural.
“We all know that if people want to save something, it can be saved even if it means investment of time and money and ... as far as I know, no one who had their face on the wall was informed of this.”
Iris Ivanoff, president of Cambie Village BIA, says the issue is strictly between the owner and the City of Vancouver, and that JJ Bean has a right to run its business as it sees fit. Ivanoff has heard some community members supporting keeping the mural intact while others thought the wall was dilapidated.
Based on JJ Bean’s “core values” of community building, Neate says JJ Bean plans to keep the mural’s memory alive by displaying a photograph of it inside the shop.