INTERVIEW: street artist WKNDSnack on the return of the Vancouver 2010 mascots

Even though downtown streets are emptied out and boarded up, four furry mythic Vancouver icons have triumphantly returned to the city.  

The 2010 Winter Olympic mascots – Miga, Quatchi, Sumi, and Mukmuk – are back and currently on display on a boarded up storefront downtown. And they’ve noticeably changed with the times, leaning into some noticeable West Coast-isms since they were last seen.

Miga’s now a Juno-award-winning Instagram influencer. Quatchi has gotten really into craft beer. Sumi is a corporate lawyer who rips deep pow on the weekends in Whistler. And Mukmuk hit a rough spot trying to adapt in the city and moved to Vancouver Island, where he became a commune leader.

The street artist known as WKNDSnack is to credit for the re-emergence of the elusive mascots and he answered questions via email about his idea of revisiting Quatchi and friends 10 years after the 2010 Olympics. He also speculates about where they will be another decade from now.

And if you’d like the mascots for your own walls, you can buy your own signed print, with all donations are going to charity. Head to WKNDSnack’s Instagram account for more info.)

Folks may have seen your cat and dessert paste-ups around town, or visited the STICK street art show from last year but you’re still an elusive figure. Who is WKNDSnack? 

I have no formal art education, but I’m a huge art and art history fan. Painting is just a hobby that I try to improve by doing. That combined with seeing the art of @mwbowen_artist@sasquatch_army, and @olgairesse around the streets made me think I should try it myself.(Ed. Note: all artists were also featured in last year’s excellent STICK show.)

Doing it has taught me so much about the city and public spaces and given me a great appreciation for local artists both formal and graffiti. I also firmly believe that everyone can make art and street art is just an outlet for that. WKNDSnack is a way for me to be creative and explore ideas. 

What was your interest in revisiting the Vancouver Olympic mascots 10 years later?

First off, I’m a huge fan of the Olympics. Hit me with a story about a figure skater who overcame adversity to get to the games and I’m in tears. The mascots are this weird little niche of culture with a hyper-loyal following. There are a significant number of Instagram accounts dedicated to Quatchi stuffed animals that are still very active. I saw one of those a year ago and thought, wouldn’t it be funny to update the lore and see what they’re up to now?

It also felt like a great way to basically create a profile of four types of Vancouverites and talk about the culture of our city. Not enough people acknowledge that we even have culture! 

Why was the time right to bring the mascots back?

I had pasted these up a few months ago around the 10 year anniversary, only to have them scraped off right away. No one seemed to care about the Olympics and it just felt like the timing was wrong. So, I shelved it. I actually took a break from Instagram and street art for a bit. It was being stuck inside for a number of weeks during quarantine and then finally going out one night and seeing all the plywood that made me think it might be nice to put these up and give people something to laugh about. 

What did the Winter 2010 Olympics mean to you?

I think they felt like a time where the country came together and worked towards a common goal. Not without issues, or controversy, but a nice thought. I wasn’t in town for them though. I lived elsewhere and watched them on TV. I think I managed to watch most of the major moments like Alex Bilodeau win Canada’s first gold at home, or Jon Montgomery with a pitcher of beer in Whistler Village. Watching Neil Young sing Long May You Run at the closing ceremonies before they put out the torch also stands out. 

Have your thoughts on the Vancouver Olympics changed over the last decade?

When I watched them on TV, I really only got the overwhelmingly positive narrative and national pride. Both of which I still love, but when you live in the city for a while you realize how everyone’s feelings about it are more complicated.

Even my appreciation for the games is a lot more functional. I appreciate them now for things like the Canada Line, Olympic Village, or the green roof of the conference centre. Maybe that’s just because I’m an urbanist nerd. I do however see the downsides as the city still has rampant poverty and the Olympics did little to address that.  

Do you have a favourite of the mascots?

The design of Quatchi really stands out. He’s iconic, but reading up on the lore I really like Mukmuk because he’s based on a real endangered Vancouver Island marmot and it’s cool that this character has an educational element. 

Any predictions for where the mascots will be in another decade?

Quatchi will be the mayor of Trail, BC and has opened his own brewery called Quatchi Brewing, but is currently entangled in a lawsuit about the naming rights with the IOC. 

Sumi: a partner at his own high-profile law firm Thunderbird Law, has two kids in college  – and I know what you’re asking, and yes, he still shreds the gnar up at Whistler. 

Miga: after years touring on the world Miga settled down to a job working on ET Canada and is now based in Toronto.

Mukmuk: after becoming disillusioned with the cult like organization he was running with Mukmuk moved on to become the Executive Director of the Marmot Recovery Foundation. 

You mentioned that the mascots didn’t stick around for long the first time. Is that tough with street art, that it’s only a matter of time before it’s scraped off, painted over, or removed?

For sure! That’s sort the magic and the frustration about street art. It’s a really fleeting thing. It’s all about finding the right spot where a lot of people will see it, but it won’t get taken down. For me I also want to avoid anything that’s blatant vandalism, so I use paste that comes off and try to avoid certain types of material. It’s a tough balance! 

An example of that is the mascots I put on the Nike store on Robson which got painted over after four days. But they also generated some local media buzz which is cool, because to me art is really about people experiencing it. If it makes the morning news then people are able to experience it across the Lower Mainland.

Have to ask: do you have a favourite film or movie that was filmed in Vancouver or is set in Vancouver?

50/50 because it’s so blatantly Vancouver scenery and it’s just a great comedic movie with a lot of heart. Also this isn’t a movie, but I love this video Vancouver Never Plays Itself by Every Frame a Painting 

I’m not the best when it comes to reading novels, but I love Alice Munro’s short stories. She has a few set in the city, one that comes to mind is “What Is Remembered” that captures a few familiar places.