Graffiti and street art are legal in Toronto and have been since 2011.
I did not know this until three of our Toronto Airbnb guests on different occasions asked us where Toronto’s graffiti and street art, specifically Graffiti Alley was. I thought I knew enough about Toronto to answer most tourist questions, but Graffiti Alley, I had no idea… So I googled it. Sure enough, there is a lane way in Toronto called Rush Ln infamously nick named Graffiti Alley.
To make matters worse the East entrance to Graffiti Alley is literally a 5-10 minute walk from our condo. Ah shit, I feel ashamed.
So I chalked it up to being new to this part of Toronto (after recently moving here from the Greektown neighbourhood) and went out to explore Rush Ln. Once I arrived I immediately recognized some of the graffiti. I then realized that I’ve crossed the laneway on intersecting side streets on various occasions but never walked along the laneway. Phew, I felt much better.
The sensible decision to make some streets like Graffiti Alley legal venues for graffiti and street art was the result of a long and bitter struggle between art, business, and government. I have seen the progression over the last 20 years and Torontonian’s can see that business and government had some argument in their favor from the point of view of hindsight. This did not mean that government should go as far as destroying all the graffiti and street art in the city. It also did not seem fair to charge a business a tax for decorating itself with art.
The artistic concept was even more confusing as some business people saw graffiti and street art as a menace or a threat 25 years ago but now many see it as a way to advertise.
The art community was very vocal and very tactical in keeping Toronto decorated no matter what.
Once you get out and look at what people were doing, what you won’t see is random tagging or scrawls. What you will see are drawings were true art. They are even possibly a new art form. The range of subject was extraordinary. The colors ran the gamut from muted to violently florescent.
Graffiti and Street Art
A part of the appeal of the graffiti and street art was the transience. The art had to be captured on film because it would be replaced by new decorations when time eroded the masterpiece that local masters created. The artists came to be a new class of art stars.
Even before a formal agreement about graffiti and street art, Graffiti Alley became a special venue for the craft.
This kilometer of wall space in the fashion district of Toronto has come to symbolize the art form and the quality of the art that can be produced.
I now make a point to see it at least every other month because it changes.
Graffiti Alley has become a business opportunity for the artists, local businesses, and Toronto. Features on Canadian television have spread the word about Graffiti Alley, graffiti and street art, other areas of Toronto where it is legal, and the artists who make the walls come alive.
I personally like this idea and the art. It reminds me of a Renaissance studio and some of the descriptions of the walls in Venice near famous artist’s studios.
The art is just plain cool. It changes so frequently that you get excited about what may be coming up next.
In addition, this is an amazing resolution to what many people thought was a problem. The artists get to do their thing. Some people even leave signs telling artists to do graffiti and street art on a particular wall. And the art that was once considered an eye sore is now an attraction and a money maker for the city.
Using the latest travel apps, technology, and gear, I take a city; see the sights, taste the food, smell the roses, hear the stories and feel the love. All in 48 hours. Then, using videography & editing, photography and writing I retell and share those stories with my readers and viewers.
I'm Christopher Rudder and welcome to Rudderless Travel.
Read more about me here: Being Rudderless With Christopher Rudder and here: Rudderless Travel gets nominated for the Leibster Award.
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