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This project covered a boarded-up Vancouver storefront with 48 captivating portraits

The ‘Power of Portrait’ project is also sharing each subject’s story about how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting their life.
power of portrait Robson Screen Shot 2020-04-30 at 6.55.14 PM
This Sephora location on Robson Street has a new look. | Photo courtesy of the Power of Portrait project

By now, you’ve probably seen a few of the many stunning murals that have popped up on boarded-up storefronts across Vancouver during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another initiative that has repurposed bare sheets of plywood into blank canvases has also been completed - but this one comes with 48 different backstories. 

Earlier this month, a citizen-led art initiative dubbed “Power of Portrait – We are all in this together, Vancouver” invited Vancouverites to submit a self-portrait, or a photo of a fellow self-isolator within their household, to the project’s website, all in an effort to reinforce community connection during this time apart.

Due to space constraints, organizers selected 48 portraits out of 125 submissions to print on large-scale, black and white posters. As of this week, those posters now adorn the Sephora store located at 1045 Robson Street. Each photo was selected by a team of local artists and business owners, “with the aim of showcasing the city’s wonderful diversity,” project organizers explained in a release. 

Organizers invited those who submitted portraits to also share their personal stories about how the past several weeks have impacted them, and attached the resulting stories to the correlating portrait on their website and social media accounts. 


power of portrait Screen Shot 2020-04-30 at 6.56.35 PMA few of the portraits showcased on the project's website. | Screenshot

Andrea McLaren, a local clinical counsellor, is credited with initiating the project. The idea was inspired by the Inside Out Project, a global effort tasked with “ transforming messages of personal identity into works of art,” and born from McLaren's concern about the psychological impact of social distancing and of the boarded-up businesses within the community, project organizers said. A team of artists assisted McLaren with bringing the project to life, including digital media artist Jai Djwa; photo editor Hanif Janmohamed, and photographers Kimiko Karpoff and John Goldsmith.

“The responses we have received from people speak of the transformative impact of art and story - and in this case the invitation to step into the sense of what it is to be all in this together during this pandemic, as diverse people sharing in a vision,” said McLaren in the release. The project was funded by the Robson Street Business Association.

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