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Massive murals dazzle in West Vancouver

Ambleside walls come alive with new works of art, including a popular depiction of the Odeon West Vancouver theatre in 1977

Murals. So hot right now.

Three larger than life art pieces are now adorning some previously drab walls in Ambleside, something the local business community hopes will beautify the area and give it an injection of commerce.

“I think everybody wants to be in a place that's beautiful, that's welcoming, that has a nice streetscape,” said Maureen O’Brien, executive director of the Ambleside &  Dundarave Business Improvement Association. “It just makes for a nicer shopping and walking experience.”

O’Brien met the landlords who own the walls and the artists selected to paint them to arrive at the designs.

For the largest one, at 15th Street and Clyde Avenue, Tyler Toews has created a massive representation of the Lions Gate Bridge passing through a three-dimensional heart, with crashing waves and the waterfront in the foreground. The mural reflects 15th Street being the “heart of Ambleside,” O’Brien said.

A block east on 14th Street, artists Jay Senetchko and Parris Kolsteren were asked to create something that depicts strength, art, independence, along with being feminine, floral and beautiful. He arrived at in image of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo done in the style of one her famous self-portraits.

By far the most popular though has been Emilie and Mike Fantuz’s design for 1583 Marine Dr. – a historic depiction of the Odeon West Vancouver cinema, which occupied the building next door from 1947 to 1991. Aiming for nostalgia, they set the mural in 1977 with Star Wars and Saturday Night Fever emblazoned on the marquee.

“They're all super impressive and they're all completely different,” O’Brien said about the murals. “There was a lot of thought that went into picking them.”

Last year the ADBIA launched a survey aimed generating some ideas and enthusiasm for what a revitalized Ambleside and Dundarave might look like as the District of West Vancouver prepared to launch a planning process for the area. Part of that included beautification projects and revamping laneways so they can be more people-oriented, with patios and seating rather than just dumpsters and delivery doors.

The ADBIA, which is funded out of a levy on businesses in the area, covered the budget for the murals, but O’Brien said she expects a return on investment. West Vancouver needs no help getting people to visit its waterfront destinations, but local commerce is missing out on a lot of opportunity because no one has given them a reason to walk just a block or two north, O’Brien said.

“It's always been a challenge to try to get people, especially visitors, to come up from the beach, come up from the seawalk, come up from the parks to come into the business district,” she said. “It's a way for us to bring people into our business community that normally wouldn't.”

Earlier this year, North Vancouver's Edgemont Village got in on the mural game, adding four fresco paintings as part of the Vancouver Mural Festival.

And O’Brien said they likely are just getting started in Ambleside.

“These were the first three that we commissioned and the feedback we've had has been so amazing. I already have two other landlords that have approached me saying, ‘Can we have murals on our walls?” she said.