Vancouver Mural Fest 2019 was only a year ago, but it feels like it was another lifetime. The streets around Mount Pleasant were blocked off to traffic and bustling with people. The whole of 7th Avenue was a beer garden. DJs were playing in parking lots and toddlers were jamming out. Live music was drifting down Main and everyone was buying art from the street market, or taking group photos in front of a large-format new painting, or sharing sunblock with neighbours they ran into in alleyways, or dodging a skateboard demonstration.

Needless to say, we don't be partaking in the "wait, is our city actually cool?" West Coast carnivale vibes of yesteryear for the 2020 event, but the celebration of outdoor artwork is carrying on nonetheless. With 60 brand new murals spread across nine neighbourhoods, it's a chance to highlight both the city and creativity. Plus, for those of us who have spent the last few months aimlessly wandering our neighbourhoods on listless runs or anxiety-soothing walks, it'll be a nice change of scenery.

Instead of a big weekend bash to celebrate the new murals, this year's Vancouver Mural Fest will be mostly self-directed: a free mobile app launches August 18 to guide you through the new additions to the growing collection of murals peppered through the city (60 new ones join the 200-plus already up in Mount Pleasant, South Granville, Robson, the West End, Downtown, Strathcona and Gastown, as well as Marpole and the River District). This year's roster of artists includes the Festival's youngest-ever muralist (just 14 years old!), and Musqueum artist Thomas Cannell, who created a massive Indigenous mural on the side of the Patricia hotel. 

While there isn't a centralized block party happening this year for obvious reasons, the Vancouver Mural Fest foundation has still lined up a series of live music, drag and comedy events (with social distancing top of mind, of course) to bring the community together-ish to celebrate the new public art now out in the wild: The VMF Pop-Up Patio has been approved for twice-nightly ticketed performances, and anti-racism talks will be open to the public and art community as well. (More details to come regarding location and tickets on the Vancouver Mural Fest website.) Replicas of murals from the past five years will be available for sale online during the three week festival as well, via a digital gallery exhibition.

Though the murals will be there to peruse year 'round, the festival "officially" runs August 18 to September 7. Vancouver Mural Fest has been releasing some sneak peeks on their Instagram in the past few weeks if you can't wait:

Mark your calendars for August 18 when the mural magic kicks off... and we have something fun to look forward to for the first time in a while. (That sounded sadder than I intended, but here we are.)

Learn more about the schedule of events and download the app at vanmuralfest.ca