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Graffiti For Citizens

There was a positive article on graffiti in the local paper a few weeks ago by Kelly Egan - I'll include the link, but it's subscription only. Basically, he discussed our local program in Orleans to wipe out graffiti, how we hate the unclean, race to eradicate it from the face of the earth. And yet many other social problems wait for funding. He suggest creating a legal wall in the area, where young artists can express themselves without harming private property. In his words "Graffiti, surely, is never going to go away; perhaps it just needs a better tag line".

I agree with him, we complain about the spread of sign pollution along major streets, yet it stays there while we wage 'war on graffiti'. This battle is described  and being led by our local councillor - hopefully he'll be open to other suggestions. 

I was inspired to write a short letter to the editor praising this positive attitude. And I was called and asked to make the letter longer, and could they take a pic of me at one of the sites?? Woohoo.

The article is in today's paper, here. Again, you may need a subscription, so below is an updated version:

Re: Some types of graffiti can have artistic merit, Feb. 19.

It is so nice to hear from someone who appreciates the artistic side of graffiti.

I've been hooked on this art form since 1999. I was on a casual stroll along Queen Street in Toronto when a splash of colour in an alley caught my eye. I wandered in past garbage cans and parked cars and I found walls of art, hidden and often short-lived. Since then, I've been taking photos of graffiti in Ottawa and Toronto, both to document the art before someone else needs the same "canvas" and to expand the audience. I've met some of the artists, and through them more of their world, things like hip-hop and break-dancing and poetry slams. They're surprised, then pleased, that even someone older than them can manage to understand and appreciate what they do. Maybe that's what more of us should do, rather than settling for the simplistic linking of graffiti with gangs and crime and concluding that the solution is more police patrols. Talk to these kids, get to know them, even the ones that are your own. What are they like, what are their needs, what can they contribute to their community.

I agree with Kelly Egan that young artists in the east end would be encouraged to employ their skills if they had a legal area to express themselves. Ottawa already has a semi-legal wall downtown at Ottawa Tech School as well as a legal one under the Dunbar (Bronson) Bridge. As for landlords with blank walls that keep getting tagged, they should try to encourage a crew to create something for them on their walls. Put up a simple sign, spread the word that you want to talk, not just bust them. Quite often, an artistic mural on a wall gains respect in their community and the tagging stops. Try it.

If readers want to explore this further, I have a lot of pieces captured on my blog at as well as links to other graffiti resources and sites.

And here's a version of the pic they used - credit to Pat McGrath- Ottawa Citizen.

26639290392_1 This is at the Tech wall, in Ottawa, and is part of a huge piece done last September by Daser, over several days.

My intent as I said is to document the works, and educate on the artistry. And perhaps though this, encourage more legal walls, and more dialogue between the two cultures - them and us. Perhaps a store owner will pause before repainting his bland wall yet again, and instead hire some kids to actually do a piece on purpose behind his store. And add some art to the city.


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i think it's really good what you have to say. there should be more legal walls in toronto with which the youths can express their artistic sides. art makes the city pretty it shouldn't be washed off like it's stain or dirt...

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