A partnership between CF Pacific Centre and local visual artist Carmen Chan has resulted in the creation of an Only Love mural in support of the Asian community. The aim: to demonstrate intolerance toward Asian-hate crimes and racist behaviours that are currently prominent in Vancouver. We chatted with Carmen about her piece, and how she hopes to help Vancouverites and passersby uncover meaning in its purpose. —Noa Nichol
Hi Carmen! When and why were you approached by Cadillac Fairview to design a community mural at CF Pacific Centre? What made this project a good fit for you?
Cadillac Fairview connected with me this spring with the opportunity to participate in this project, as a means of showing its support for the Asian community. I was immediately interested as I wanted to partner with a brand whose values aligned with mine. It was great to see a company like Cadillac Fairview taking these racist and violent incidents in our city so seriously and their sincere interest in doing what they could to show their support for the Asian community as demonstrated through this visual art mural and a generous charitable donation to the Hua foundation, a non-profit foundation which supports youth led initiatives for a more just world.
Tell us about the Only Love mural, the inspiration behind it and what it symbolizes/what you hope people will take away from seeing it?
Only Love is a digital mural that embodies the hope and positivity that I would like to bring to the Stop Asian hate conversation in Vancouver. In the design, I included a Chinese Dragon that represents strength, power and health—blessings I wish for the Asian community, and represents my own Chinese heritage and upbringing. This friendly dragon is breathing out a stream of abundant flowers instead of its natural defense to spew destructive fire and cause damage, metaphorically spreading love instead of hate. The flowers chosen are those recognizable in Asian culture—hibiscus, cherry blossoms, peonies, magnolias—representing the diversity of the Asian community in Vancouver. The petals give movement and flow, symbolizing the spread of this positive message: to inspire change within ourselves and hope that when faced with racism, we collectively choose to respond with love, because only love can drive out hate.
Over the past year, more anti-Asian hate crimes were reported to police in Vancouver, than in the top 10 most populous U.S. cities combined. How does that impact/feel to you?
Vancouver is known for its multiculturism, and its diversity is what makes our city so vibrant, unique and beautiful. This recent surge of attacks and increase in racial tensions against the Asian community is alarming and not at all reflective of the values our city prides itself on. In these moments of darkness, I wanted to work with Cadillac Fairview to help them spread light and love in our city. I’m grateful to work with a partner, like Cadillac Fairview, who is committed to supporting local artists and who shares the belief that art has the ability to create a sense of belonging and the power to bring the community together.
What can the rest of us do, to be allies to the Asian community?
The beautiful thing about art is that it has an ability to connect to everyone—regardless of their age, culture, gender or socioeconomic status. I’m so glad my positive message is resonating with others to inspire action. Because of this, it is a powerful force in fostering community, creating a sense of belonging and celebrating diversity—all aspects that are vital as we look at the issues that are currently facing our communities such as isolation, mental health challenges, racism and violence. This mural is meant to bring Vancouverites together and showcase that the beauty of our city stems from celebrating the diversity of the people who live here. We can look after our neighbours, stand up for what’s right, use our voices for good and spread love instead of hate—be the loving change you wish to see in the world. And with everybody’s help, we can collectively do our part to preserve it.