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Life of a mural: Octopus relieves Queen Victoria on long bike ride

Victoria artist Lori Garcia-Meredith added the octopus when she was tasked with cleaning up graffiti that had marred Queen Victoria’s face in the mural
A mural of Queen Victoria on the Galloping Goose near Gorge Road now depicts a squid-faced woman on a bike. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

A bike-riding octopus wearing a crab for a crown with a Canada goose in its basket?

That’s what Victoria artist Lori Garcia-Meredith came up with when she was tasked with cleaning up graffiti on a mural featuring Queen Victoria that she designed five years ago for a wall in Viaduct Park along the Galloping Goose Trail, near the Selkirk Waterfront.

The original mural featured the queen — with goose — on a bike, as well as a purple octopus being towed by a second goose.

Garcia-Meredith was recently re-hired by the Burnside Gorge Community Association to fix up the mural and give it new life after it was defaced by graffiti tags over the past year.

Elizabeth Cull, chair of the association, said the original mural, which had been painted for the association in 2017, was sealed and coated so the ­graffiti could be washed off Queen ­Victoria’s face and the artist was brought back to revise the piece.

“[Garcia-Meredith] came up with the idea of putting an octopus on the bicycle. It’s quite lovely because there’s other sea creatures around it. It’s a very whimsical mural.”

Despite concerns expressed to the Times Colonist that the city was painting over its heritage, Cull said the only reaction the association has heard is relief that the graffiti is gone.

She said graffiti removal has been one of the organization’s goals after it received funding from the Union of B.C. Municipalities for work in the Burnside Gorge area.

Since then, a group of volunteers calling itself the Graffiti Getters has come together and taken down graffiti tags from walls, telephone poles and B.C. Hydro boxes every weekend. “They’ve been going like gangbusters,” Cull said.

She said with less graffiti, repaired murals and a new mural on the Trafalgar Pro Patria Legion that ­commemorates veterans, the area has changed significantly.

“There’s been a really great effort to try to clean up some of this stuff,” she said. “It’s kind of broken-window syndrome — you allow graffiti to build up or ­garbage to build up and everybody starts to feel that the neighbourhood is unloved. And we thought if we could get rid of the graffiti, we could maybe turn things around. And I think we have.”

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