Vancouver Events: A Look Back on 2020 #onRobson

2020 was the year everything turned upside down. As we faced a global pandemic, our way of living and interacting completely changed. And while we adapted to our ‘new normal’, it was a good reminder for us all to slow things down and reflect on what matters most in life. Despite the ups and downs, twists and turns that 2020 brought, there were in fact some glimmering moments #onRobson and we’d like to take the opportunity to look back on these notable milestones. 

Back in mid-March, we watched our businesses shut their doors one by one in quick succession, leaving our vibrant shopping district boarded up, desolate and a blank canvas for vandalism and graffiti. What started as a simple solution to paint out graffiti turned into a citywide initiative that garnered local and international coverage and recognition.

Make Art While Apart, a joint partnership between Vancouver Mural Festival, the Robson Street, Downtown Vancouver and South Granville BIAs and local artists, transformed 60 boarded-up storefronts with colourful images and messages of positivity, gratitude and resilience, which brought joy and light to the community during a dark time.

Photo by @dylanhamm

Noting how much the public art initiative resonated with the community, we decided to collaborate once again with Vancouver Mural Festival and local artists to create longer lasting pieces of artwork #onRobson. Three stunning murals were added to Robson Street by the talented Ejiwa Ebenebe, a.k.a Edge, Ovila Mailhot and Fiona Ackerman who brought to life Flower Crown, Butterfly Kiss and All in, respectively. These pieces were part of this year’s Vancouver Mural Festival in late summer, which added another 100+ works of art throughout the City of Vancouver. During this time, we also brought back five of the salvaged #makeartwhileapart murals and an outdoor projection of the initiative featuring footage of the artists and their pieces.

We also commissioned Katie SoWKNDRS, and Chris Perez to bring their art to beautify our temporarily widened sidewalks, each block having its own colour palette and theme.

The widened sidewalks were part of the public life and economic recovery efforts of the City of Vancouver, in partnership with the Robson Street BIA, to promote the comfort and safety of visitors to Robson Street and to fulfill the needs of businesses requiring extra space for queuing or curbside pickup. This project also resulted in three temporary curbside patios to support our restaurants and cafes, as well as the addition of several public seating areas along Robson Street.

This year didn’t allow for our typical special events, but we did bring back our Tree of Good Fortune in celebration of Lunar New Year, as well as a few activations for Valentine’s Day, including our Vancupid mailboxes, a kissing booth photo op and a pop-up flower cart. We also co-hosted West End Wednesdays, in collaboration with the West End BIA and Small Stage, which kept us virtually connected to our community through music and dance during May and June. And once it was safe to do so, we brought back live music to Bute Robson Plaza with Bute Robson Beats, an afternoon music session every Friday and Saturday featuring different local musicians for the month of August.

While sadly we said goodbye to a few businesses this year, including Café Crepe, J.Crew and RYU, we also welcomed several new additions to Robson Street: Feng Cha, Uncle Tetsu, Mountain Warehouse, Oomomo, as well as the new flagship Foot Locker, the first Power Community Store in Canada. Also announced this year is the opening of Paul Bakery and Hello Nori, both coming to the 1100 block in early 2021.

foot locker on robson

We closed out the year with Fleurs de Villes Noël, a floral extravaganza that brought 30+ fresh floral installations and displays to the Robson and Alberni shopping districts to kick off the holiday season. At a time when most of the traditional Christmas events were cancelled due to COVID-19, Fleurs de Villes Noël provided an outdoor floral trail for people to safely experience and enjoy the festivities of the season.

As 2020 comes to a close, we are grateful for this community and are hopeful for a much brighter 2021 where we can share many more special moments #onRobson! Stay safe and Happy New Year, friends!