Some Torontonians think graffiti is a culture-killing, damaging nuisance. Others believe that graffiti is a valuable form of creative expression and an opportunity to illustrate stories that might never make it onto the walls of an established art gallery. In the early 2000s, an artist collective called Style in Progress moved the needle on street art. Their work initiated the discussion to blur the line between graffiti and community-based art work. They have since stepped back, and still maintain a Facebook page to showcase their work. However, a non-profit organization called StreetARToronto (StART) has stepped up with a mission to continue replacing graffiti with engaging works of art, painted directly on the city walls.
StART was initiated in 2012 as part of the City of Toronto's Graffiti Management Plan. Its programs encourage Torontonians and visitors to get outside and live an active life among beautiful and engaging works of art. Graffiti Alley is one such location to explore what StART has to offer.
Although Graffiti Alley is about a kilometer long, which translates into a little over half a mile for those of us who speak Imperial, it’s easy to miss. It starts at the corner of an alleyway called Rush Lane and Portland Street in the Fashion District. Artists are always in the alley with their spray cans and stencils, designing an ever-evolving urban landscape. World-renowned international street artists have visited Graffiti Alley and left their mark.
StART accepts Requests for Expression of Interest (REOI) from any artist who wants their chance at a Toronto wall. Tim Skynz is one of the StART artists who draws inspiration from the psychedelic movement of the 1960s. Daviddavid is a Serbian artist with two murals on display in Toronto. His style is abstract expressionist and classical realist. WonG has been active with the street art movement in Toronto since the early 2000s, and their work can be seen decorating the walls of local businesses.
In the following YouTube video, travel vloggers Tia and Andy show images from their favorite pieces on display:
This is your chance to contribute to an essential dialogue about expression, creative freedom, and culture. Artists no longer have to wait for a gallery or museum to recognize their talent. Every building is a canvas to tell their story. Instagram is like the Graffiti Alley of the internet. Share your story! And don't be afraid to get your hands dirty. It is, after all, a city alley, and no artist ever walks away from their finished piece with clean hands.