The first horse-drawn ambulance in Vancouver and a modern-day freighter against a backdrop of mountains are among the scenes unfolding on the drab grey wall at Vancouver General Hospital.
Artist Jennifer Garant has completed six of the panels in what may become one of the largest murals, hand-painted by one person, in the world.
The Laurel Street Pavilion wall faces on to 12th Avenue. It is 26 metres high and 81 metres wide. The mural, in sepia, will depict seven years from the hospital’s 101-year history, a modern hospital scenes and seven original works.
Garant, 27, has been up and down the scaffolding five days a week since mid-July and hopes to finish by November.
“I don’t know how to explain it … I used to dive and I used to fly and nothing is as fun as being up there. I never get bored with art,” Garant said in an interview this week.
Her blonde hair and casual clothes splattered with white paint and a safety belt around her waist, Garant said murals are a way to give buildings a facelift and support local artists at the same time.
“It’s a cheap way to possess art,” she said. “Anyone can come and see it.”
Garant receives feedback daily from VGH staff and patients.
“I’ve got two guys from the senior citizens’ complex across the street who come over every night to check on me – my moral support team.”
VGH spokesman Peter Walton conceived the project, which is not costing the hospital a penny. A benefactor is paying Garant $10,000, and other sponsors are providing scaffolding, outdoor enamel paint, food and beverages.
Walton thinks the mural will be the largest in the world of its kind. Many murals are done using airbrushes but Garant is hand-painting hers.
Raised in Saskatchewan, Garant’s first love is doing watercolor paintings of beaches, summer, fun – “anything that’s not depressing” – with the murals as a sideline.
The artist won’t reveal what’s in her mind for the remaining panels she designs herself.
“Let it unfold,” she says. “Keeps the staff interested.”