After a week of controversy, Ladner-based artist Mike Moser spent his Thursday afternoon (July 22) covering up the unapproved words he painted onto a mural in downtown Abbotsford.
Those words included the phrase ‘Make Abbotsford Great Again’ – the similarities to the polarizing campaign slogan of former president Donald Trump lit up social media and the flames intensified after it was discovered that the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association, who commissioned the mural, were not aware it contained those words.
Executive director Jennifer McEwan said originally some words were to be on the mural, but now the association has chosen not to have writing.
“It doesn’t really matter if there was [supposed to be] writing or no writing,” she told The News on Wednesday afternoon. “The writing that was on there is not what was supposed to be included and we are working with the owner of the building and the artist to rectify it.”
McEwan said a social media post from July 8, which appears to show the ADBA promoting the mural despite the unapproved content, was a mistake.
“I just want to make it clear that we want to make it right,” she said, noting her phone has been ringing off the hook since the mural’s words made it onto social media.
“It was never intended to be this way and we understand these things can be emotionally reactive and that’s not what we want in our community at all.”
Artist Mike Moser earlier this week admitted to The News that the content he added was not approved by the ADBA.
“As this was our first publicly commissioned mural, we now understand and acknowledge that any additional content must obtain approval beforehand (in this circumstance, from the ADBA),” he told The News through his wife Erin Moser.
The mural, located just off Montrose Avenue and on the side of Spruce Collective, depicts Bob Bos standing next to a classic car in downtown Abbotsford. Many consider Bos to be a notable figure in the history of downtown Abbotsford. He died in 2018 and in 2020 Abbotsford council decided to name a lane in downtown Abbotsford after him.
Diane Bos, the widow of Bob, stated ‘Make Abbotsford Great Again’ was a phrase her husband regularly used for many years before Trump began using the slogan, adding that she doesn’t support any particular politician or party either in Canada or across the border.
Bos said the artist came up to her and asked her for input on what to include on the mural.
“He painted the mural and he said ‘let’s put on some comments that Bob always said,’” she said. “It had nothing to do with politics – we’re Canadian for Pete’s sake. It’s our building, we built it, it’s paid for – I’m the owner now. I don’t want to degrade his vision over this when it has nothing to do with politics.”
Bos said she doesn’t understand why that phrase would make people upset in the first place. In the early-2000s her husband helped downtown Abbotsford out of a period she said was not great. When asked for when Abbotsford was ‘great’, she said the 1960s and 1970s were an amazing time for downtown.
“Downtown really used to be humming,” she said. “The 70s it was a very busy town and then all of a sudden there were a lot of various things that brought it down. Maybe people couldn’t afford to change the facades of their stores but whatever it was it all went down together. In the 1990s it was a ghost town, you could roll a bowling ball down Essendene [Avenue] and you wouldn’t hit a thing.”
She said when her husband became the president of the ADBA things improved.
Bob Bos served on the ADBA board for over two decades and was president for 13 years. He built the Montrose Place project that houses six different storefronts and which the ADBA said “encapsulated downtown Abbotsford’s historic heritage in a new build.” Bos was also credited for helping lead downtown opposition to the Sumas Energy 2 power project.