Squamish Street Art
by Kristy Aleksich
Artist Liesel Peterson and her "Squamish Wings"
Street art has always had a place in history, from the wayward scribble of graffiti to iconic graphics of corporate icons, from crude text to conceptual pieces. The fun thing about street art is that it’s unofficial and there for everyone to see and enjoy.
In a community as creative as Squamish, there’s no need to let perfectly good walls go bare. Our mountain town is known for its quaint central core and proximity to nature, and though we are snuggly situated between the mountains and the sea, who’s to say that everything in between can’t have a little panache?
Local painter and muralist Liesel Peterson came to Squamish as a young rock-climbing enthusiast back in 2000. This hard-working single mom and self-confessed ‘super art nerd’ has been painting her whole life. Her first commissioned street mural can be found in the alley behind Saha Eatery, a blue heron in flight. Liesel was then asked to extend the mural to decorate the entire wall, followed by a brilliant set of wings around the corner.
Since then, Liesel’s ‘Squamish Wings’ have taken flight, bringing hundreds of beautiful strangers to see them. When she painted the wings, the goal was to have an interactive wall for people to enjoy. Inspired by Mexican art, a nod to Liesel’s wintering locale, these wings feature a brilliant palate of hues while also delivering a little shout out to an array of aboriginal cultures with the use of patterns, colours and symbols.
"Wings 2.0" by Liesel Peterson at the Cloudburst Cafe
In May 2020, Liesel created what she calls ‘Wings 2.0’ on the side of the Cloudburst Café in Garibaldi Highlands. This version illustrates the wings of a phoenix rising from the ashes adorned with the words ‘Rise and Shine’- an appropriate credo for a coffee shop and also a call to action for people feeling frustrated due to what’s been happening in the world as of late. An ‘uplifting kick in the pants’, Liesel calls it, with a subdued giggle and sly grin.
You’ll find more of Liesel’s urban art around town in the gradient mountains and other nature scenes adorning buildings (both inside AND out), her hidden street signs along Government Road that celebrate lost local hero Terrill Patterson, and her most recent challenge: a mural painted on the roof of a building that you can see when looking down on it from the top of the Stawamus Chief.
Artist Alex Fowkes stand in front of his welcome mural in downtown Squamish.
Squamish’s newest piece of urban art can be seen as you enter downtown via Cleveland Avenue. Painted by award-winning British designer Alex Fowkes, he is known for his typographic work, murals and installations.
Consulting with a Squamish Nation’s language expert, Fowkes put a great deal of thought and consideration into the design of the piece, which features ‘welcome’ in both Squamish and English and bright pops of colour to bring vibrancy to even the dreariest of rainy days.
In these Instagrammable days, having a focal point for people to visit for a ‘photo op’ helps build Squamish’s visibility in the public eye and pin it as a place to stop. It brings people to support our small businesses and a smile to our hearts. Maybe street art used to be the naughty sibling to mainstream art, but it is now ubiquitously loved- poetic or political, funny or inspiring, meaningful… or just darn nice to look at.