I had been engaged by the building and mural's owner to appraise the artwork as demolition of the building was being considered as part of an urban renewal project. The owner was also considering relocating the mural or incorporating it into the new redevelopment proposal, however, reaction to the wall's (and mural's) possible demise was mixed. Some pondered, 'I'm not so impressed with it as a piece of art. It's just a way to cover a wall', while others fumed,'
. you don't burn books. Art is sacred'. Still others quipped, 'it's just another piece of advertising indirectly enhancing their (business) profit margins'.
Mural, part of The Orcas of Puget Sound Series, acrylic paint on cementicious ground on concrete block, image size approximately 9 x 14 metres, signed Wyland 84, left lower centre
The mural was a 1984 gift to the city from Californian marine artist (Robert) Wyland and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. It depicts a mother grey whale and her calf, along with a male escort, passing White Rock on their annual migration between Mexico and the Bering Sea.
Initially the mural had been proposed for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation building in Vancouver BC (the CBC graciously declined), and due to the tenacious efforts of the City of White Rock's planner, the project was re-located to the City of White Rock.
The Bank of B.C. which owned the building in 1984, was understandably hesitant about being associated with Wyland's Whaling Wall. Then, on the day of the unveiling, Bank Spokesman Gerrard O'Keefe indicated that at first the Bank was a little skeptical, but was 'tickled pink' to be part of it.
Unfortunately, since the unveiling, the mural has been the cause of at least one recorded motor vehicle accident when a young lady caught by the beauty of the whales, looked for a second too long. She wandered slightly in her lane, hit the concrete abutment, and wrecked her car.
There were those who claimed comparisons to billboard advertising saying that 'If your whales were tuna, your mural would only be a few words away from an ad for Starkist'. Still other dissenting voices claimed hucksterism and megalomania. The artist was portrayed as a 'transient illustrator with some time to kill and a truckload of free paint', and others pined, 'An unhampered view, a few trees, even an unadorned block wall would be better than this assault on our sensibilities'.
Wyland created the mural over a period of three weeks beginning around September 5, 1984. The official unveiling took place on September 29 and was attended by Wyland, Wyland's mother, Paul Watson (founder and President of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society), Gordon Hogg (Mayor of White Rock), and others. Approximately $2,000 was donated by Cloverdale Paint and Chemicals Ltd., and the Ocean Beach Hotel provided accommodation for Wyland whose meals were donated by local restaurants.
Wyland, who donated his time free of charge, worked with one assistant and from time to time, with local volunteers. A plaque was positioned across the street from the mural indicating that the mural was a gift from Wyland and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to the City of White Rock.