Speakers and panelists


Keynote Speaker

Zvonar’s collage works are composed of source materials drawn from art history, contemporary advertising and popular culture. They question existing social and cultural systems through the use of humour and irony. Her work often speaks to the ethos and aspirations of those on the periphery of mainstream society, drawing inspiration from counterculture movements that challenge the status quo. 

Zvonar treats imagery as metaphor, establishing a referential context that calls into question popular conceptions and historical canons to address cultural constructions of power. She often uses a feminist perspective to illustrate how rules of engagement were unbalanced in the past and remain so today. 

Zvonar has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions throughout Canada and in New York, Australia, Japan and Belgium. In 2022 she presented a new body of work in both sculpture and collage at the SFU Audain Gallery and participated in a group show rooted in practices that pay homage to Surrealism at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery. Zvonar’s work was included in the 2021 Gestalten publication, The Art of Protest, Political Art + Activism and will be included in the upcoming 2023 Phaidon publication, Vitamin C+, Collage in Contemporary Art. Zvonar is represented by Daniel Faria Gallery in Toronto and lives in Vancouver.


Psych Eye, 2022


Rose Gothic, 2022

Keynote Speaker

Sandeep Johal is a Canadian visual artist whose practice engages drawing, collage, textiles, and large-scale murals. Through her Indo-folk feminine aesthetic, she confronts themes of bleakness, despair and ugliness with their dissonant opposites: brightness, hope and beauty. Johal’s work typically centers around the stories of women and while she highlights female suffering in its many forms, these are ultimately stories of resistance and resilience.

Johal has worked on a number of notable site-specific commissions including a recent mural for the Vancouver Art Gallery’s inaugural #SpotlightVanArtRental project (2021), a digital projection mapping for Facade Festival produced by Burrard Arts Foundation(2019), and a 4,000 sf collaborative mural project for Vancouver Mural Festival, which centred around the Komagata Maru Episode and involved the denaming of the federal building it was painted on (2019).

Johal’s clients include Apple, the Vancouver Canucks, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Holt Renfrew, Lululemon, and Earls Restaurant Group as well as the University of British Columbia’s Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies and Simon Fraser University’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue. She has been an artist-in-residence at Burrard Arts Foundation and Indian Summer Festival, and is the 2019 recipient of the Darpan Magazine Artistic Visionary Award.

Johal holds a Diploma in Fine Arts (honours) from Langara College (2007) and an Education Degree from the University of British Columbia (2002).



ArtSmash x Vancouver Mural Festival

Photo credit: Maria Angerilli



Vancouver Art Gallery x Vancouver Art Rental and Sales Program

Photo Credit: Ian Lefebvre

Keynote Speaker

Brandon is a multi-talented contemporary mixed media artist who specializes in painting, drawing, graphic design, architectural design concepts, and public art installations. His work has been exhibited in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, USA, and across Canada.

Brandon Gabriel was born and raised on the Kwantlen First Nation Reserve in Fort Langley BC, Canada. He was educated in Cultural Anthropology, Visual Art, and Marketing at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, before receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Art from Emily Carr University of Art and Design (2006).



Presented by Anabella Alfonzo

Arising from the theme of the conference — the role of imagery in the built environment — this presentation offers a reflection: emerging from the philosophy of the image, unfolding through the creative process, and bringing us back in time as we discuss the roles of art and architecture, exposing their inseparability.

Images, art, and architecture can be understood as territories of possibility, activators of imaginaries. The visual, becoming experiential, becoming spatial. To illustrate the power of this interwoven approach, the works of two creators will be presented: An artist from South America (1970’s – 1990’s) and an architecture practice from the Netherlands (1990’s – present day).   

This is an opportunity to remember, to question our current views. An opportunity to consider a return to a unified way of creating, of conceiving our spaces, of making our cities. 

Anabella Alfonzo is an art consultant based in Vancouver, Canada. Her practice is driven by her belief in the importance of connection and belonging, and that art can be a powerful tool to achieve that – in both public and private spaces. Anabella brings a unique perspective, informed by her 17 years of multidisciplinary experience, rooted in her architecture background, and ignited by her passion for the arts. In 2021 she founded Aartplace, a professional art consulting studio dedicated to curating, developing, and delivering art programs, collections, plans and strategies for culture-minded organizations across the world.


Presented by Erika Balcombe

It’s true: art and imagery in the built environment do contribute to our experience of urban space. Aesthetic properties, messaging, artistic intent, and personal relevance can captivate the viewer: surprising, delighting, persuading, or educating them. Public art, from an educator’s point of view, offers myriad opportunities to teach about art, design, history, architecture, and even math and science—there is no shortage of ideas on how to position public art as a jumping off point for meaningful discussion in classrooms. But it offers something greater and perhaps more relevant in today’s post-pandemic hangover: relation.

Over the last 3 years I have discovered that my role as an educator has had to evolve to respond to the real needs of young adult learners. The classroom has become an opportunity to foster much needed human connection and feelings of belonging. We know from multiple studies, in particular Sapien Lab’s 2022 report: The Deteriorating Social Self in Younger Generations, that young people 18-24 have been most impacted by the pandemic, suffering from loneliness and disconnection more than any other demographic. This cohort makes up my entire student body at both UBC (anthropology) and Wilson School of Design. For my classes I’ve decided to use public art; yes, ostensibly as an opportunity to learn about heritage, public space design, and collective memory, but actually, to get student outside, in fresh air, together, and talking with one another IRL (in real life) and IRT (in real time). Public art’s form becomes secondary to its relational potential. Drawing from Bourriaud’s notion of relational aesthetics, I will establish how public art is more than simply form and message. I will highlight several projects that demonstrate the usefulness of this pedagogy in fostering relations and will show how murals, billboards, and urban interventions can be moments of incidental togetherness and social connection.

Erika Balcombe is a design anthropologist, educator, and museum collaborator who studies people and their relationships with things. Ever wondered how the built environment expresses cultural values? Erika does, and that’s why she works with design students, cultural institutions, corporate workplaces, and local communities to better understand human experience in architectural space and the meanings ascribed to them. Currently, she is a sessional lecturer at UBC and regular faculty member with the Wilson School of Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic University where she teaches and engages in interdisciplinary research.


Presented by Dorothy Barenscott

In this presentation, I will explore how and to what ends urban screen culture has radically re-shaped and repositioned the reception of street art both inside and outside the art world over the past decade. More specifically, I will focus on how the democratization and proliferation of Internet technologies, evolving alongside networked communities, social media, the intensification of geo-tagging and Google mapping, actively disrupt and subvert traditional relationships between art producers and their audience. Critically, my argument turns on the provocative argument for casting street artists as part of a reimagined and emergent avant-garde under the conditions of neoliberalism. This, a model of transgressive and often contradictory radicality and art production that successfully unites elements of global cosmopolitanism, decolonization, activism, influencing, commodification, and knowledge proliferation and production existing well beyond the control of elite art world insiders, critics, theorists, and academics.

To align with the “Big Pictures” and “Urban Interventions” conference theme, I will introduce a range and diversity of street artists, designers, and corporate sponsored brands working with large-scale murals and installations in major urban centers around the world to make my argument.

Dorothy Barenscott is an art historian whose research relates to the interplay between urban space and emerging technology and media forms in the articulation of a range of identities. She completed her Ph.D. in Art History, Visual Art, and Theory at the University of British Columbia, and currently teaches modern and contemporary art history and theory in Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Fine Arts Department. Barenscott’s most recent publication “Learning from Las Vegas Redux: Steve Wynn and the New Business of Art” appears in Spatial Transgressions in the Arts (Palgrave MacMillan, 2021) and she is co-editor of Canadian Culinary Imaginations (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020), an interdisciplinary collection that explores how Canadian writers, artists, academics, cooks, performers, and gallery curators are inspired and challenged by the topic of food. Barenscott’s essays have appeared in journals such as Postmodern Culture Journal, Invisible Culture, History and Memory, and Mediascape. Outside of her academic research, Barenscott acts as Senior Specialist and art consultant for Openwork Art Advisory, leads interdisciplinary student groups on field schools to global art cities, and maintains a public blog, Avant-Guardian Musings, dedicated to visual culture and theory research and pedagogy.


Presented by Jer Crowle

In the heart of Edmonton’s downtown core, a kaleidoscope of colours bursts out of Michael Phair Park, reinvigorating the space and inviting passersby into the fun and celebration.

“Confetti” is a playful addition to a park that recognizes the contributions of its namesake to the city. The first openly gay elected politician in the province of Alberta, Michael Phair was instrumental in shaping the brief for this colourful and performative installation.

Jeremy Crowle is an award-winning Creative Director at HCMA whose focus is community, relationship, and global culture. His interdisciplinary practice makes use of various mediums, including traditional and conceptual art such as sculpture and product design, to inform design rationale.


Presented by Philippa French

Sculpture Court Skate Park is located in downtown Mississauga, hidden in a plaza next to Mississauga’s Civic Centre. Though initially designed as a sculpture court, the space was converted to a skate park to provide a dedicated place in the downtown for local skateboarders to practice the sport.

The park is unique because it’s largely home to local Mississauga skateboarders and has a strong community feel. Due to its location, however, the site is subject to defensive architecture practices, including increased surveillance, signage reinforcing the criminalization of graffiti, barricades to deter urination, and poor upkeep of the skate equipment. Over the years, these practices have reinforced both a lack of official site ownership and accountability by the municipality, and a strong sense of community ownership by local skateboarders who see the space as theirs in spite of this has emerged.

In 2021, a public art project on the walls of the park was conceived to promote it as a place to amplify local artists and improve the user experience. Artists were asked to propose an artwork that considered the park users and engaged viewers in a conversation exploring the relationship between urban design, architecture, and community.

The winning artist, Ray Vidal, created “Ebb and Flow”, a digitally illustrated mural series depicting local skateboarders, rollerbladers, and break-dancers and the constant flow of energy that is channeled to create something cosmic. As a skateboarder who uses the park, Ray had a strong connection with the local skateboarders and was able to create a striking mural series that contributes to the sense of belonging, connection, safety, and self-reflection in the space.

Philippa (Pip) French is a public art curator and project manager working in municipal public art. Pip leads city-building initiatives, partners with local arts, community, and educational organizations, and works to diversify municipal public art collections. In her current role as a Public Art Curator with the City of Mississauga, Pip commissions permanent large-scale sculptures, murals, temporary artworks, and works based in digital media. Pip is a graduate of Queen’s University’s M.A. in Public Administration and the University of Toronto’s Urban Studies B.A. Program and a member of ArtReach’s Resource Advisory Committee, a Toronto organization that supports community-based arts initiatives that engage youth from equity-deserving populations who have experienced exclusion in Toronto.


Presented by Rachel Pennington

Blissful Release by Vivian Rosas is a largescale, hand-painted and community-informed sidewalk mural that celebrates and honours 2SLGBTQ+ communities. It depicts a crowd of people of all backgrounds, ages, genders, and abilities, dancing in a rainbow, finding joy and belonging with one another through music and dance.

We wanted to commission a mural designed for and by 2SLGTBQ+ communities. To accomplish this, we implemented principles of diversity, inclusion and equity through all stages of the project and centered 2SLGBTQ+ representation including the artists, artist assistants, art selection committee members, City staff, project stakeholders and residents.

We heard from seventy 2SLGBTQ+ participants in three virtual community engagement series, facilitated by Vivian Rosas. This virtual safe space asked participants to connect and help envision the mural through online dance and drawing classes.

Residents across the city helped choose the mural’s location. We received almost 400 responses to a public site selection survey, including participation from both the general public and 2SLGBTQ+ identifying residents.

Blissful Release depicts joy in the 2SLGBTQ+ community. With this mural, the artist wanted to show off the true diversity of what the 2SLGBTQ+ community looks like today. It is inspired by the dance and club spaces that have been historically important for 2SLGBTQ+ individuals to feel safe without fear of judgment. In this mural, she envisions folks moving together, crashing to the same beat, finding joy and pride for who they are – each so different, yet finding community and chosen family in one place and feeling held.

Rachel Pennington is a public art curator for the City of Mississauga. She leads the commissioning and conservation for large-scale sculptures, murals, temporary artworks, and digital works. She is currently writing Mississauga’s next Public Art Plan. Rachel previously curated the London Arts Council’s public art portfolio in London, Ontario, including the City of London’s Poet Laureate Program, Indigenous Artist in Residence Program, and London Arts Live program, which she won an International Downtown Association Excellence Award for. Rachel is a graduate of Western University’s M.A. in Public History and a recipient of the Lieutenant-Governor’s Excellence in Conservation Award for co-authoring “This Hour of Trial and Sorrow”. She is the Co-Chair of the Creative City Network of Canada’s Public Art Network, a member of the City of Mississauga’s Employee Equity Advisory Committee, and a former board member of Architectural Conservancy Ontario


Presented by Marie Pudlas

Teenagers are often merely tolerated in public spaces rather than celebrated. Playgrounds, places they were recently welcome, become spaces where adults steal suspecting glances at them, thinking the worst is about to happen. While teenagers do sometimes cause problems, this is not reason enough to ignore their needs and desires. Outdoor public spaces are crucial for the physical and social development of our youth as they learn to navigate the world on their own. Additionally, as more children and youth grow up in apartment towers, parks and other green spaces are becoming increasingly important in maintaining a connection with nature. In failing to create public spaces for this demographic, we thwart our efforts to create places for a thriving society.

This project examines research on what teenagers need and want in outdoor public spaces for mental and physical development, challenging designers, planners, and landscape architects to think beyond the skatepark. Burnaby Mountain Secondary School is explored as a site for design interventions for teenagers, teachers, staff, and the neighbouring community to play, hangout, and explore

Marie Pudlas’ fascination with plants led her to pursue an education in horticulture and urban ecosystems at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. For her graduate project in the Master of Landscape Architecture program at the University of British Columbia, she is currently researching how teenagers use outdoor public spaces and how we as designers can better cater to this often ignored or excluded demographic. Before starting the MLA program, she worked for the City of Burnaby creating large living sculptures, often 4m in size, filled with soil and covered with plants. For 8 years, she taught martial arts and was a guider for girls ages 12-15 with Girl Guides of Canada. She plans to use my experience working with youth and her plant knowledge, to create playful environments that spark joy in people’s everyday lives.


Presented by Ann Pollock

Agency – the capacity of individuals to act …

As a society, we are just beginning to understand that agency and decision-making have been the privilege of only a few; that more voices need to be invited to this table of power and independence. Seniors are usually overlooked when thinking about diversification and inclusivity. The Collective Agency Project counters this, giving voice and presence to a group of senior Vancouver artists, individuals often relegated to the fringes of society with their time of usefulness deemed over.

The Collective Agency Project was formed in January 2020 through an open call of the City of Vancouver Public Art Program, in partnership with Arts & Health: Healthy Aging Through the Arts, Vancouver Board of Parks & Recreation. Funding for this project was provided by OPAL by element, a retirement community, in fulfilment of the public art requirement for private development.

Led by curator and art consultant, Ann Pollock, the proposal was straightforward, yet complex: seniors were invited to join a two-year project where they would study photography as a multifaceted art practice and learn to produce work that would result in an exhibition plus public art projects. With the additional engagement and direction of major artists Christos Dikeakos and Birthe Piontek, the aim was to turn art into an agent of change.

Through joined artistic voices, this Project took agency through art, plus a counter position on the boundaries and stereotypes of ageing and fading senior artists. The work engages with complex cultural, political, and environmental ecologies, while examining inspirational sources of place, both real and imaginary. It recognizes and showcases the powerful, layered visions emerging from a group of seniors with many years of varied experiences.

Ann Pollock – holds a BA in Fine Arts, Philosophy, and Museum Management from the University of British Columbia, with post-graduate studies at The National Gallery of Canada, (under Canada Council Award). She has curated many contemporary art, historical, interdisciplinary, photography and film exhibitions, publications, events and festivals as Curator and Acting Director, Fine Arts Gallery (Belkin) UBC; Curator, Vancouver Art Gallery; Section Head of Installation Arts, Film, Sound, and Video, Sydney College of the Arts, Australia; and, independently, for the National Gallery of Canada; Istituto Italiano di Cultura; Pacific Cinémathèque; Winnipeg Art Gallery; Emily Carr University; and Presentation House Gallery (Polygon). For the latter she curated the project Transient Moments: Vancouver and the Performance Photograph and co-curated the international project Aurora Australis: Film & Photographic Works. She has been a Guest Editor of Espace Sculpture magazine and curated Image & Light • History & Influence: Film & Photographic Works, Vancouver, for the Charles H. Scott Gallery. Books include Marconi (Winnipeg Art Gallery), Jock Macdonald (The National Gallery of Canada), and Confrontations (Vancouver Art Gallery). An art consultant to the City of Vancouver, her various projects include The Peaceable Kingdom by Tom Dean and The Collective Agency Project. For forty years she has created and produced arts features for CBC including The Crooked Path, (artist Jeff Wall) and The White Glass, (poet P.K. Page), which have been broadcast nationally and internationally. A faculty member of UBC; Sydney College of the Arts, Australia; BC Open University; and, currently, Thompson Rivers University; she resides and works in Vancouver, BC.


Presented by Fernando Rochaix

Placemaking is a collaborative process to shape public space, making shared values tangible. A placemaking design intervention by a team of artists and designers from Georgia State University, developed over three months in Clarkston, GA, was especially challenging given the demographic diversity of the target audience. Clarkston is described as the most diverse community by the square foot in the US. It has long been a community that welcomed refugees from over 50 countries to relocate and start new lives. Our project is a painted crosswalk to be completed in late April 2023. Using participatory design methods, the GSU team was able to bridge the gap between public art and the very pragmatic concerns of the community. Participatory design (PD) is an approach to design that involves stakeholders in the design process. PD can also promote collaboration, co-creation, and empathy among stakeholders, leading to more effective and inclusive design solutions. This can be particularly valuable in designing for vulnerable or marginalized populations, as it can help ensure their needs and perspectives are considered. Physical, cultural, and social identities are at the center of the crosswalk design. We believe our crosswalk is a collective vision, enacted by the residents themselves. With community-based participation at its center, we believe effective solutions should contribute to people’s health, happiness, and well-being. Placemaking, when done well, motivates people to reimagine public space as centering agents of change.

Georgia State University has recognized Professor Fernando Rochaix for his innovations in course design, using digital pedagogy in the Humanities. He has incorporated Art and Art History class projects involving new media, virtual reality, and game simulations of ancient archeological sites. Currently, his students are creating an interactive tour of civil war monuments in Georgia, including the works of contemporary artists grappling with new revisions of racist iconography. Rochaix has also worked with DeKalb county schools, implementing computer programming workshops for K-12 students. Previous academic work and publications include Pre-Columbian, colonial art, 20th-century Latin American, and Native North American art.


Presented by Christopher M. Sterba

In the mid-1950s, Cadbury, one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the world, launched an educational program teaching children how chocolate is produced, from the cocoa plant to the finished candies in the stores. The company developed materials ranging from a sequential series of large posters to be placed in school buildings to a mini-curriculum of readings and research projects. To interest young students, the program gave special emphasis to the relationship between the cocoa farmers of Gold Coast/Ghana and themselves, the children-consumers of Great Britain.

This paper will examine the high-quality graphic materials that the Cadbury Schools Department created, which capture vividly (though unintentionally) West Africa’s transition from colonialism to independence. Through photographs, cartoons, and both realistic and abstract illustrations, we see how the department changed its approach over the course of this critical period. Most important was the choice to present “the Making of Chocolate” from the perspective of a boy named Kojo, who travels from his family’s farm in Ghana to the Cadbury factory in Bournville, England.

As will be seen, the campaign was not simply an attempt to sell chocolates and cultivate brand loyalty among schoolchildren. Nor can it be viewed solely as a public relations whitewash of the exploitation of West Africa’s most profitable resource. Cadbury took great pride in its Quaker origins and history of humanitarian efforts, and the aim of the school program appears much like an extension of the company’s progressive policies in industrial relations.

This impulse, however, exudes confidence in a mutually beneficial relationship that the choice of imagery completely undermines. Ultimately, there is a huge divide between the depictions of the village that Kojo comes from (agrarian and traditional) and the England he visits (prosperous and technologically advanced), with no sense that this relationship would ever need to change.

Christopher M. Sterba is a Senior Lecturer in American Studies at San Francisco State University. He is the author of Good Americans: Italian and Jewish Immigrants During the First World War (Oxford, 2003) and has published articles in several journals, including the New England Quarterly, Western Historical Quarterly, Pacific History Review and the Journal of American Ethnic History. Sterba was the Fulbright Professor of American Literature and Culture at the Universitet i Bergen in Norway in 2012-2013.


Presented by Andrea Curtis and Adrian Sinclair

VMF is an independent, non-profit arts organization dedicated to artistic and cultural development in our city. We create experiences that connect people through art.

VMF was formed in 2016 with a vision to transform the way art is experienced in Vancouver. It has evolved from a grassroots summer festival into a year-round, world-class, multi-media art consultancy and production agency. VMF produces the annual Vancouver Mural Festival and VMF Winter Arts. Throughout the year, we also collaborate with clients and community groups on arts-driven projects. To date, VMF has created over 300+ murals and continues to reimagine public art and events in our city.

Social sustainability, cultural diversity and artistic excellence are the cornerstones of everything we do. Our events and public art installations serve as catalysts for addressing many of the socio-cultural issues facing our city and artistic communities. These include, but are not limited to: public art policy, community building, environmental policy, reconciliation with First Nations, artistic censorship, diversity, cost of living, and the need for culturally sustainable development practices.

We recognize that our event and murals are produced on the traditional unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlil̓wətaʔɬ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this awareness, we ensure to create space for MST curators, artists and performers to shine a spotlight on the visual culture of these local nations in our art and events. We see public art as an effective way to celebrate our diverse local cultures and their histories, with special focus on providing a platform for the local Nations’ contemporary and traditional cultural expressions and histories.

We are an inclusive event intended for all classes, cultures, genders, ages, abilities, and beyond. We believe that it is crucial to the cultural health of the City of Vancouver to create tangible and lasting visual evidence of the rich diversity of voices living and working here. Our artist roster is an effort to reflect the varied histories present in our city, country, and our world.

VMF is operated by Create Vancouver Society, a Registered BC Non-Profit.