On the corner of 11th and Broadway, on the back wall of the Kiggins Theatre, stands the newest addition to downtown Vancouver’s collection of murals. The 26th mural commissioned by the Clark County Mural Society celebrates Vancouver’s cultural history and thriving relationship with its sister city, Joyo, Japan. Flowing out of a spray painted projector, the mural’s imagery explores the identities of the two cities and how their differences come together to create a cohesive vision.
(Ilko Major and
artist Cimmaron Brodie)
Although the idea of tackling a canvas of this size would seem daunting to most, artist Cimarron Brodie described the experience as fun and comfortable, even with this being her first mural. She initially became involved in the project after discovering the request on the Mural Society’s website.When painting the mural, Brodie explained that the expansive space allowed for a greater freedom. In her artistic career, Brodie has focused on painting and working with unconventional mediums such as broken jewelry and wood. In talking about the mural, Brodie also emphasized the importance of conveying the story of Vancouver and Joyo in her artwork. The mural contains images of plants, animals, landscapes, and architecture tosymbolically represent the history of Vancouver and Joyo, adding a cinematic touch that observes the the mural’s home, the Kiggins Theatre. Neighbors of the mural are ecstatic that more art is being introduced into the downtown area, especially pieces that honor our sister city. When asked about the mural, employees from Salon Moxie said “We hope our sister city loves [the mural] as much as we do!” and an employee from Northwest Personal Training said she enjoyed watching the process of the mural, seeing “a waste of space” become art.
The relationship between Vancouver and Joyo is founded on that of cultural exchanges, whether that be through gifts, art, or personal trips— each way has lead to better understanding and stronger connection between the two cities, in spite of the massive physical distance that separates them. In the bottom right corner of the mural, it reads “a connecting bridge.” This phrase was chosen by the mayor of Joyo and is a perfect way to describe the culmination of the two cities’ interactions and the phrase pervades the images of the mural. For example, the principal image of a plum tree growing out of an offering hand is a reminiscent Joyo’s iconic ancient Ume grove. Furthermore, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Washington’s statehood, the President of America Kotobuki Electronics, Inc. presented a gift of 100 Shirofugen cherry trees to the City of Vancouver. The flowering of these trees and the relationship between Joyo and Vancouver is celebrated every year at Clark College’s Sakura festival. In this way, the image of a blossoming tree represents both Joyo and Vancouver while also highlighting the connection, the exchanging of gifts and culture, between the two.
Also present in the mural is imagery that mimics the mirroring of a reflection pond. On top are images evocative of Joyo’s landscape— hills, water, a Torii (traditional Japanese gateway). On the bottom is water like the Columbia River or the Pacific Ocean and a strip of 35mm film that acts as a stand-in for the interstate bridge. Despite the differences and distance of the cities, an irrevocable similarity is present. The resemblance is further emphasized in the mural through images of Irises and Egrets, wildlife common to both areas.
In the mural are references to cinema— the filmstrip, a 30’s era projector modeled after the theater’s original machine that can be found in the lobby. This is partly due to the placement of the mural on the theatre’s back wall. However, a mural is the perfect decoration for a cinematic theatre, especially one that has played such an important role in the cultural history of Vancouver. Since its birth in 1936, the Kiggins Theatre has celebrated the moving image and the importance of storytelling by bringing movies to the people of Vancouver. In a way, this mural should be viewed as a film poster— a snapshot of the two characters, Vancouver and Joyo, and the story between them.
You can find more of Cimarron Brodie’s work on social media using the handle @terkwoize.