Portland landscape

Portland landscape

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Portland landscape artist Barbara Thomas has spent the last year, working on a project she says has been years in the making.

A massive effort to create a large-scale mural along Pender Street in Coquitlam is underway, with the hope of creating a lasting public art work that can be seen by cyclists and pedestrians.

Thomas — who describes herself as a “weather-mitigator” — is coordinating the effort to design and produce the piece, which is a three-metre by three-metre work that will be painted on a street wall in Coquitlam.

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The idea is to create something that is of value to the community and to reflect the beauty and diversity of the region, and to bring awareness to the many different cultures and lifestyles that make up this diverse city.

Barbara Thomas' mural. - Morgane Oger/The Tri-City News

She is working closely with the City of Coquitlam’s Department of Culture and Heritage and the Coquitlam Arts Council to bring what she describes as a “caricature” to life, which has been a labour of love for her over the last year.

“It has been a long time in the making,” said Thomas. “There have been ups and downs and it has been a bit of a rollercoaster.”

The piece is expected to be completed by mid-October.

“It is going to be a huge undertaking, but I think it will be great because it will attract people to Pender Street and people will get to see it, hear about it, learn about it,” said Thomas, adding that it will also serve as a kind of “gateway” to the north part of the city.

“I just like the idea of creating something that will stand the test of time,” she said. “It will become a landmark.”

Thomas said the mural would also serve to raise awareness about the province’s Special Olympics BC, which is currently holding its annual “Lunchtime Games” event in the Coquitlam area this month.

“It is all about bringing people together,” she said. “I think that is one of the biggest things in our community.

“There are so many different cultures and things that people are from all over the world, and I want people to be able to understand that if they just walk down Pender Street and see this mural.”

Barbara Thomas' mural. - Morgane Oger/The Tri-City News

She said the mural will also reflect the various landscapes and lifestyles that exist within the city.

Thomas, who is a landscape artist by profession, is hoping the mural will be an annual thing, and not just a one-time effort.

She said she is talking to the Coquitlam Arts Council about the possibility of another mural being created in the future, as well as how the wall could be used as a space for other community events, like music festivals.

“I really would like to do something like this every year,” she said. “It can be really unique, so I think it is important that we do it again and again.”

“We are trying to do things a little bit different with Coquitlam,” said Thomas. “It has a lot of history and a lot of culture, and I really think it shows off the beauty of the community.

“I have been working on this for a year and a half, and there are many people who are helping me.”

Thomas said the mural is also being designed with education in mind, and the hope is that people will be able to walk up and read about the history and culture of Coquitlam, as well as the world, and learn about the people who are featured in the mural.

“I wanted to do something that would be meaningful for the community,” said Thomas. “I think people are going to be surprised and hopefully amazed by it.”

She said she is also looking forward to the mural becoming a permanent fixture on the wall, and hopes it will inspire other artists to create works of their own.

“I think it is going to be a unique mural, and I think it will draw people to the area,” she said. “I just hope that people will come up and walk alongside it and look at it and take a picture, and that is one of my greatest hopes for this mural.”

The mural is being designed by the landscape artist, who has worked in various mediums for the past 30 years. She has also previously worked with Coquitlam’s Department of Culture and Heritage and the city’s public art commission.

“It is a big mural, and it has been an interesting project,” she said. “It has been a learning curve, but I am really excited about it.

“I really want this to be a landmark, and I want people to be able to see this mural and learn about the different things that are happening in Coquitlam.”

Thomas said the mural will be able to be viewed from approaching and leaving the Downtown Coquitlam Centre.

“My hope is that there will be cyclists and pedestrians along Pender Street,” she said. “I think it will be a unique experience for people who live in Coquitlam and for people who come to Coquitlam from all over the world.”

A fundraiser called the “Build the Murals” campaign is being held on an online fundraising website, with the goal of raising $30,000.

Those interested can go to

“I am really excited about it,” said Thomas. “It is coming together very nicely.