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The 20-storey 'Earth Justice' mural is the tallest of Fairey’s career.

Jimmy Jeong/The Globe and Mail

In spite of the ugly turn things have taken politically and environmentally since Shepard Fairey made his instantly iconic HOPE poster for then U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008, the American artist still feels loads of it.

It’s evident in his work that emerged this week on the side of a downtown Vancouver office building – spanning 10,000 square feet and 20-storeys, the mural is the tallest of Fairey’s career.

In Earth Justice, the planet is the centre of a flower, cradled by a pair of hands. The poster is visible on downtown Vancouver’s busiest thoroughfare, West Georgia Street, a visual break for the occupants of countless cars that get stuck in traffic approaching Burrard Street.

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“When you get to the scale of a mural like this, it’s undeniably changing the landscape,” says Fairey, 49, a former street artist who describes himself as “a middle-aged miscreant with a conscience.”

Fairey was commissioned by the Burrard Arts Foundation (BAF) to make the work to launch its new Surface Series, a biennial large-scale public art program. It is also part of the current Vancouver Mural Festival, and coincides with the opening of a retrospective of Fairey’s 30-year career, Facing the Giant: 3 Decades of Dissent at BAF’s gallery.

The work is scheduled to stay on the side of the building for two years, (possibly longer if people vociferously object to its removal,) BAF founder and board president Christian Chan says.

“We believe that art should be at the centre of the city,” Chan says.

Speaking last week ahead of installation – and before back-to-back mass shootings in the United States – Fairey said he was frustrated with the “horrifying” situation in his country. And yet.

“I always feel hope because I meet amazing people. I meet inspiring people. I meet good people. They just aren’t the ones who have the power a lot of times. That they exist means that can change.”

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