So Fun City: Vancouver Mural Fest Colours Our World

Vancouver Mural Festival is creating a more colourful city—on multiple levels.

Vancouver Mural Fest is often the recipient of one particular backhanded compliment. “‘This doesn’t feel like Vancouver’ is one of the most common things I hear,” laughs Adrian Sinclair, co-founder and director of engagement for the festival.

But, obviously, it is Vancouver: as you’re shimmying through the crowds at the VMF-hosted Mount Pleasant Street Party to grab a beer from a local craft brewery; as you’re on a gleeful scavenger hunt through the back alleys looking for the city’s newest murals; as you’re grooving with your neighbours to the music that fills the streets before catching a high-octane all-ages drag show. It’s Vancouver the whole time—wherever you go, here you are.

Clockwise from left: artist Samantha Slinn, Preston Buffalo and Hannah Watkins; and Adrian Sinclair, VMF co-founder.

We have the audacious VMF team to thank for reminding us just what our city can be—and what it can look like, with more than 400 murals created to date. Sinclair founded the fest with Drew Young, David Vertesi, Gabe Hall and Andrea Curtis back in 2016, using a background in event management and activism to, to put it politely, get stuff done. “Getting permission for things that are hard to get permission for is our raison d’être,” says Sinclair. But ultimately the secret to VMF’s vibrant summer events (and now the Winter Arts Festival, its equally vibrant celebration of art, lights and entertainment) is that they’re not in it alone. “We reach out to community leaders—drag communities, sports communities—and we invite people in to be part of a chorus of voices and ideas.”

And while the collaborators on VMF events may be repping specific identity groups, Sinclair is clear that these cultural events are for anyone and everyone. “Our vision is to create meaningful experiences that connect art and people, and we do that by inviting literally everyone to be a part of it, and making things as accessible as they can be,” says Sinclair. “Arts and culture needs to be available to as many of us as possible. It’s not all flowers and pictures. It’s a bedrock for a better society… and, once we’ve got that, it’s more fun.” ­—S.M.

Vancouver Mural Fest runs every August; VMF Winter Arts returns February 2024

Q&A with Adrian Sinclair

How do you have fun in Vancouver?

The stand-up comedy here is underappreciated. Comedians crush it here—we have such amazing talent. Also, I love waterslides.

Best way to make friends?

Show up with snacks.

More from our So Fun City issue here >>