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Unique art show features vintage Expo 86, Vancouver centennial posters

Did you have one of these posters on your wall in 1986?

35 years ago Vancouver had a big year.

Between centennial celebrations and Expo 86, a lot of attention was rained on the seaside city. Artists created amazing art and photographers captured images across Vancouver, and many of their works became posters used for city celebrations.

Posters, in the pre-internet days of the 1980s, were a big way to market something, says James Haliburton. He's worked in the industry for decades, specifically in archival and storage of movie posters (his clients have included Disney and Amblin). He bought a bunch of posters at the end of Expo 86, as many were left undistributed due to changes in the organization.

"I went in and bought out a lot of the remaining stock - they never got to market," he tells Vancouver Is Awesome. "All these have been archivally stored."

Now he's displaying them in a shop in West Vancouver.

"I wish these posters had got out to people sooner," he says. "I never found a way to get them to market."

In a show dubbed "The Lost Posters," Haliburton has a variety he'll be sharing and selling during the exhibition. Notably, four of the posters were produced for the centennial and two for Expo 86, depicting the city in a variety of forms, from sailboats in front of downtown, to a sea otter, to the city from Spanish Banks. 

"In that same year, we celebrated Vancouver's 100th Birthday. Prince Charles and Princess Diana officially opened [Expo 86]. Vancouver introduced SkyTrain as a transportation system option, and the Lions Gate Bridge was graced with lights for the first time. Rick Hansen’s historic Man in Motion Tour was also in full swing," he says.

His show includes posters from some of the most popular and well-known Canadian artists of the last half of the 20th century, including Ted Harrison, Jack Shadbolt and Robert Genn.

Along with the artistic and photographic posters, he has one displaying all the stamps people could collect on their passports during Expo 86; he's encouraging anyone who wants to come by and take a photo with their passport and the full collection.

There are a lot of people who went to Expo, Halliburton says. "The majority of them had a good experience and they remember these good things."

During the current stress of the pandemic and the 21st century, the poster enthusiast thinks the memories will be a pleasant moment for many.

He also has a poster from the Oscar-nominated short Rainbow War. The IMAX film made for Expo 86 was also one of the first roles for both Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie, who went on to become legendary improvisers. Haliburton is hoping to get Stiles to stop by one day.

While nine posters will open the show, Halliburton says it wil be dynamic, as he's got about 40 other images he wants to get in front of people's eyes.

"I have some cool posters of the space shuttle that no one has really seen," he says. "Near the end of the project, I'm going to bring in some of that aviation art."

All of it will be related to Expo 86.

"This particular project I think is a lot of fun," he says. "It increases the understanding of the historical importance of Expo."

In addition, some posters will be for sale; Haliburton has collected multiples and stored many in mint condition, having never opened the package. 

The show is being held at Haliburton's shop, KelpMan Home and Garden; it's another business he's been in for decades (he's involved in a few different industries, notably also music production and documentary film making). He opened the shop this year after gardening during the pandemic caused a bit of a boom for his business.

The public can see "The Lost Posters," show at 1405 Bellevue Avenue in West Vancouver, starting Sept. 24. The exhibit's opening night coincides with the store's grand opening and will run until Dec. 24. It is free and open to the public Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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