If you have driven through the Centennial Way and Loggers Lane underpass, you have seen artist Stan Matwychuk’s salmon mural.
The Water Wall piece has been a beloved fixture there since he installed it during the Squamish Wind Festival in 2015.
The large piece depicts a salmon swimming upstream, a homage to the fish.
Last week, the mural was vandalized with profanity against the mayor and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The tagger also spray-painted a cigarette and smoke coming from the fish.
Friday, Matwychuk was back trying to repair his art.
“I’ll literally have to redesign most of the fish,” he told The Squamish Chief, as traffic whizzed by him.
After he fixes up the mural, he will give it a protective coating to hopefully prevent such damage from happening again.
Matwychuk said he felt a mix of emotions when he heard his art had been defaced.
“It takes your breath away a little bit. You feel deflated because you try to put your best voice forward and try to work with the community and show those values and such. And it just takes a small, short-sighted moment with a spray paint can to start to change that,” he said.
At the same time, he knows folks are frustrated at this point in the pandemic and expressing that through vandalism.
“I understand the struggle with people being frustrated... I understand people want to write down what their struggles are, whether it’s with the mayor or the Prime Minister. I think a lot of people struggle to get their voices heard. So I mean, I can understand that.”
At the same time, the pandemic has not been easy for artists, including Matwychuk.
He had a lot of gigs set up for the summer of 2020, but the pandemic meant they were all cancelled.
And, like many artists who show their work online, Matwychuk has also fallen victim to folks stealing his work to sell on digital (NFT) art sites. Therefore, he has had to password protect viewing of his pieces.
Not to mention, his day job disappeared at the end of 2020 when his company changed hands.
He then pivoted careers and went into gasfitting and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning).
Seeing the positive
However, Matwychuk said there had been bright sides even to the tagging of his mural.
“It also created a lot of good. I’ve run into a lot of great people since I’ve been down here the last few days. And everybody’s super, super encouraging,” he said.
"A bunch of kids walked by and they're like, 'What are you doing?' And I explained the story of the mural and how it's the life-cycle of the salmon."
The youth thanked him for cleaning the mural.
"Yeah, super cute. And so I mean, there's been a lot of good that's come out of it," he reiterated.
This isn’t the first mural repair job Matwychuk has undertaken. Last summer, he repaired the Terry Rodgers Bridge Mural in Whistler that he produced with the late renowned artist Chili Thom back in 2007.
“The community really wanted to see that protected and fixed,” Matwychuk said.
District of Squamish spokesperson Rachel Boguski told The Squamish Chief the municipality is saddened by the graffiti on Matwychuk's Squamish mural.
The estimated cost of the repair is $2,000.
The District is working in collaboration with the Squamish Arts Council to fund the repair through the District’s Public Art Program.
Matwychuk will be compensated for the time required to apply the protective coating, according to the District.
“Unfortunately, vandalism is both common and costly, and in some cases, the use of harsh chemicals needed in order to repair the damage may negatively affect the durability and lifespan of the paint,” Boguski said.
The District’s bylaw enforcement department tracks complaints and has not seen a recent increase in reported activity.
This mural vandalism incident is currently being investigated by the RCMP. Anyone with information is asked to contact the RCMP at 604.892.6100.
As for Matwychuk, next, he will be painting a large-scale mural of trees on a building on Third Avenue.