Steel & Oak Brewing Co. is in love with the city that it has called home for close to a decade now — New West.
We know that because the brewery made its feelings clear with a mural art that includes words, icons and imagery specific to the city. The artwork spans across three walls measuring 10 by four feet, 16 by four ft. and 16 by three ft., at its newly-expanded tasting room.
Artist Enry Smith, an employee at the brewery, worked on the mural through the entire month of November, taking about 16 hours to finish each wall.
She called it “a love letter to New West.”
It all started mid last year, when the brewery's founders Jorden Foss and Jamie Garbutt approached Smith about juicing up a dark corner of the tasting room that, they noticed, attracted little crowd.
“The black cave, we affectionately called it,” said Smith.
The three brainstormed and came up with the idea of turning the walls in the area into big canvases for art that will shout out their love for the city.
The making of a crowd-sourced mural art
In October 2022, the brewery asked its social media followers to tell them what imagery or icons they best associated with the city of New West. A flood of responses followed — like “Tugboats on the river”, “Queen's Park” and “Tin Soldier” to mention a few.
“We got a bunch of great suggestions from the community members,” said Smith.
“I also spent a couple of nights, after I finished my shift behind the bar, just asking some of our regulars and making giant mind maps about all the things that we could be throwing out there (as part of the mural).”
Along with community input, Smith added her own ideas.
“I mostly just thought about all the things in New West that made me fall in love with the city so much.”
Smith, who lived previously in Ontario and Winnipeg before moving to New West a decade ago, said, “New West is the first place I have considered home in a very, very long time.”
“New West is such a tight community. There are so many people and businesses who help each other out; I really think that it has a great sense of community that’s not there everywhere in the Lower Mainland or in the other places I've lived in Canada. It's really unique in that sense for me,” she said.
Smith joined Steel & Oak brewery — which was also the first craft brewery she visited in the city as a 20-year-old — about six years ago. “It's been a while and they're definitely like a little family to me.”
New West icons get a spot on the wall art
When Smith, who recently finished a graphic design course from Visual College of Art and Design in Vancouver, got the opportunity to finally pay an ode to New West through her art, she made sure that land acknowledgement was at the forefront of her work.
“I feel that we are very honoured for the unceded territories (of the Halkomelem speaking peoples) that we get to live on, work on and thrive on. We have such a rich history here, and I wanted to make sure it was both celebrated and acknowledged.”
“Aside from that, I definitely wanted to make sure I got the seals on there. I'm not from the West Coast; so when I walked the Quay and saw the seals, it was so wonderful!”
The mural, besides including popular New West areas such as uptown, downtown, Sapperton,and Tipperary Park; landmarks such as Pattullo Bridge and the Fraser River, also includes a mention of the “the great fire of 1892.”
“I wanted to create an ‘I spy’ board for people."
Once the design was ready, she projected it on the black walls of the tasting room, before drawing over it using white Posca paint pens.
Smith worked on it mostly on Mondays and Tuesdays when the crowd was relatively thin.
“I definitely had quite a few regulars who were curious about the process. It was the first time I've ever created something where I felt like I had a live cheering section,” she said with a laugh.
Smith’s mural work, while being a flattering testimonial to the city, has made what used to be a dead space in the brewery, a lively one.
“The number 1 thing I've noticed is that before, no one really wanted to sit in the area because it was a little bit dark.”
That's not the case any more, as per Smith.
“And that, to me, just speaks for itself.”
Often, during her shift, she takes time to watch people scanning the vast mural between taking swigs of pale ales.
“It's great to just see people finding the Easter eggs… little secrets in there” — all penned with love, from Steel & Oak to New West.
Check out Steel & Oak Brewery's mural room at 1319 Third Ave.