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Man behind the murals: Renowned artist covers Grand Forks with art

Archer’s goal is to paint an entire town while spreading joy
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A detailed close-up of one portion of the Davis Building mural by Archer. Chris Hammett photo

Born on Christmas Day to a woman named Mary Magdalene, Paul Archer (‘Archer’), came into the world already turning heads.

Now, nearly 62 years later, it’s his large-scale murals that have people talking.

Archer has created more than 90 murals across Grand Forks, working toward his dream of painting an entire town while spreading positivity and improving tourism.

“I believe the city should actually reach out and get something done as you enter and as you exit, you know, ‘Welcome to Grand Forks, home of grand murals.’ It doesn’t have to have my name on it; it doesn’t have to be ‘Archer Murals’; it doesn’t have to focus on me,” he says.

Archer’s first mural in Grand Forks was created during the summer of 2019, when the owner of the Wooden Spoon Bistro commissioned him to paint a one-storey portrait of her daughter licking a spoon.

The first Archer mural in Grand Forks is found on the wall of the Wooden Spoon. Chris Hammett photo
The first Archer mural in Grand Forks is found on the wall of the Wooden Spoon. Chris Hammett photo

He’s since added murals across the city, including at the Boardroom Café and Aquatic Centre – often using the actual citizens of Grand Forks in his work.

Archer has also worked on many other notable buildings across the province, including the Vancouver Airport, Vancouver Aquarium, Vancouver Planetarium, BC Place and the Vancouver Canucks dressing room.

Always an artist – in different media

As a child, Archer always knew he wanted to pursue a career as an artist, even when the adults in his life weren’t so supportive.

“My dad asked me when I was 11 what I wanted to do when I grow up, and I said, ‘Well, it’s pretty obvious, I want to be an artist.’ And he says, ‘Oh, no, no, you can’t do that. Make that a hobby,’” Archer says.

“That’s not me. It’s not in me that I wouldn’t want to do something for the rest of my life that would make me happy.”

Archer got his start in the art world airbrushing T-shirts in Victoria, until a nightclub owner approached him to create a mural in his venue. Accepting the challenge, Archer was forced to make an instantaneous “brain flip” to transition his art for the larger canvas.

He worked overnight to complete the mural, eventually falling asleep on one of the booths. In the morning, the nightclub owner was thrilled.

“They handed me a brown envelope. I opened it up, there’s $1,500 in it, and then I went, okay, well, this is where I could actually make some half-decent money.”

Archer’s mural on the Davis Building shows a grandfather and grandson fishing. The mural took 17 days and drew large crowds downtown every evening to watch it take shape. Chris Hammett photo
Archer’s mural on the Davis Building shows a grandfather and grandson fishing. The mural took 17 days and drew large crowds downtown every evening to watch it take shape. Chris Hammett photo

From there, Archer honed his craft, travelling around the world to create large-scale art for clients. His career has led him to meet big names such as Rob Zombie, Snoop Dogg, Sean Connery, Lenny Kravitz, Cheech and Chong, Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne and many more.

He even turned down the chance to work with Disney, twice, opting to remain his own boss.

Community created through art

Despite all his global success, Archer chooses to stay in Grand Forks – the place he calls home. The question of why is something he’s asked often.

For Archer, it started after the tragic 2018 floods that rocked the community. After that first Wood Spoon project, he started receiving more requests, including to paint the Davis Building and Boardroom Cafe.

“Once I started doing the bigger ones, I noticed people were repainting the front of their shops; people were hanging flowers outside of their shops. All of a sudden, the cardboard came off the windows, the sandbags started to get thrown out, and everybody started collectively coming together and fixing up the downtown core – I believe – because the murals started happening.”

Looking ahead, Archer is expanding his horizons by creating a film and photobook.

He also hopes to create a series of calendars showcasing his Grand Forks works paired with inspirational quotes.

While still in the early stages, Archer shared that the film would explore his life and journey as an artist, highlighting his work in Grand Forks.

“I’m doing exactly what I love to do, and that’s why I’m putting out a book and a documentary, to inspire young artists or even people that want to get back into art that are talented; to inspire them to not have to listen to ‘the man’ or have to punch a time clock or have to do this or faster, stand in the line. Break some rules, have some fun with your life,” he says.

“I’ve travelled the world. I’ve seen every band I’ve wanted to; I’ve checked off my entire bucket list. I’ve done everything I’ve wanted. And now, the last thing on my bucket list, really, is the documentary.”

Learn more at boundarybc.com/destinations/grand-forks, where you’ll also find a map to the city’s murals.

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