Some cities are known for their incredible street art. Mexico City, Valparaíso, Berlin, São Paalo, and Prague are just five that have gained international fame for their exalted murals. But in recent years, Vancouver has moved into the big leagues with stunning street art popping up in many neighbourhoods. We even had one of the giants in this field, Los Angeles–based Shepard Fairey, visit Vancouver to paint a massive work at the corner of Georgia and Burrard streets as part of this year’s Vancouver Mural Festival.
Nowhere are the murals more numerous than in Mount Pleasant, where dozens of pedestrian-halting images have transformed the landscape. So it seemed only fitting that for this issue, we would pay tribute to these magnificent additions to our city on our cover. They are part of the best of Vancouver. Naturally, artist Shayne Letain chose Mount Pleasant as the location for his illustration.
This is the Georgia Straight’s 24th annual Best of Vancouver issue, and over those years the city has seen its share of ups and downs. But one of the things that have endured is an environmental ethic that was decades ahead of its time. That was on display for the world again when 100,000 residents filled the streets to call for more dramatic action to address the climate crisis. Of course, Vancouverites are old hands at this—the Straight was covering local environmental sages like David Suzuki, Chief Dan George, and Bill Rees long before there ever was a Best of Vancouver issue.
But now the young’uns are taking over the fight, inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. “How dare you?” she demands of older generations for not doing enough to avert a potential catastrophe. She’s right when she says our house is on fire. But it’s also worth noting that Vancouver residents were quicker than those in much of the rest of English-speaking Canada to sound the fire alarm.
This, too, is a reflection of the best of Vancouver. Then there are all those family-owned businesses that heroically soldier on in the face of sky-high real-estate costs and an unfair property-assessment system that tilts the playing field in favour of multinationals like Amazon. It’s damn tough operating a storefront business or a restaurant in this city. It takes stamina, intelligence, and a great deal of heart to keep going year after year when it seems like the deck is stacked against the little guy. We salute those local businesses for how they’ve enriched the city, whether they are booksellers, art galleries, fashion retailers, fabulous diners, artistic venues, or anything else. They, too, are among the best of Vancouver.
Then there are the teachers who are educating our kids to try to strive for a better future, the emergency responders saving the lives of addicts, and the kindhearted volunteers who drive cancer patients to medical appointments. Come to think of it, there is a whole lot to celebrate, notwithstanding the ecological challenges we face.
In this issue, our writers have fun highlighting what they feel is the best of Vancouver. You can check out what they've written in the links below.