Burnaby Heights just got even cooler as expanded mural unveiled

Jacquie Rolston was an artist specializing in animation who had never painted much before, but she had a story to tell. That story came from seniors’ memories in the pages of the Burnaby NOW.

The story told of a vaudeville hypnotist who had come to town in the early ’30s and put a young woman in a trance. She slept through the night in the front window of Monk’s Dry Goods Store.

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Rolston took the story and turned it into a large mural adorning a wall along McDonald Avenue, just off of Hastings Street.

Rolston was a summer student with the Heights Business Association in 2002.

“When I applied for the job, I proposed this story had to be shown,” she said.

Over the years, the painting was damaged and characters were missing legs, according to Rolston. In one spot, a car had hit it and damaged one character. The Regent Theatre sign was crumbling.

The association hired ArtVision Painting to repair the wall in 2018, and hired Rolston to restore the mural. She also extended it by nine metres.

Renovating the mural was no small task, she said.

“We had to get a scissor lift and I had to get scissor lift training. It was kind of terrifying,” Rolston said.

The new portion of the mural shows a mechanic chatting while working on an old Ford, with children playing on and around the car.

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Jacquie Rolston, the artist behind the History in the Heights mural, stands before the newly restored and extended project. It was her first mural. JANAYA-FULLER EVANS PHOTO

I wanted this green building to turn the corner,” she said of the new portion of the mural, adding it seemed right to have a car in it, and children. “It was always clear in my mind that there would be children playing marbles at the end there.”

Isabel Kolic, executive director of the Heights Merchants Association, spoke about the neighbourhood’s mural program at the reveal of the restored and extended mural.

“The mural program in the Heights was designed to be eclectic, it’s not themed,” she said. “We hire fine artists, students mostly, who want to make a career in doing fine art. It’s their way of leaving a mark.”

Murals cost between $5,000 and $10,000, according to Kolic.

There was a ribbon cutting for the mural on Friday, May 17, with the artist and a number of local politicians and city staff in attendance. Mayor Mike Hurley was at the event, along with city councillors James Wang and Pietro Calendino, and Burnaby North MLA Janet Routledge.

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