The Great Graff Debate
A couple years into High School my friends started the Keele wall, seen here, behind the Midas garage in High Park. It inspired me, made me draw, take pictures, explore the city. It was also really cool that Midas let my friends spraypaint whatever they liked as long as they designed a Midas logo for the passing subway cars and commuters to see. The wall still flourishes today, its message always new and simple. In this image it's a spaceship, and the word "sight". Next month a new artist will cover the space.
Even though the trend toward grafitti covered walls has been increasing in popularity, the City of Toronto has been pushing for stricter measures against its proliferation. The message to commercial property owners is this: "Clean up the art or pay the painting bill that the city hands over and a potential fine." The argument presented is that alleys and walls of spraypaint scare away tourists. But, which tourists?
At the same time as this crackdown, festivals around the city are supporting the art and bringing people into the city core to celebrate it. Harbourfront Centre sponsored a Beats, Breaks and Culture event which showcased grafitti-based art, as well as music. The Grafitti 416 expo is on this weekend at Portland and Queen, and Little X's Getting Up Festival last weekend advertised grafitti demos as part of its allure. Even, City Hall was involved in one outdoor art exhibition held this summer on its grounds that featured some of Toronto's grafitti artists.
Yet, grafitti still gets a bad rap. Sure, there are punks with no respect, tagging buildings they have no right to. My anger flared seeing 1930's dance club Palais Royale tagged by some amateur, and now the Hotel Edgewater's retro sign will never be the same.
So some people give it a bad name. They're not artists in the same right. Parameters should be set, and business owners should have their say. The mayor's little broom icon from his campaign bumper stickers refered to trash and not art, I thought. Mayor Miller should learn the difference. The rest of the city knows. As do I. When I'm on that subway train heading to Keele station, about to pass the wall, and I see several TTC riders looking out the window with curious eyes all lit up looking at the wall, it makes me proud, and reassured that art of many kinds has a place in a city of many cultures.