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June 2007

Saviour of the Scrawls

There's a great article in today’s Citizen on a local mover and shaker – see  The title is cute, but sacrifices accuracy for alliteration- the author must have noticed that this art is far more than a scrawl.

I’ve worked with Sabra for a few years on various projects. She’s into building communities and also bridging between them – such as the virtual hip-hop community and the physical neighbourhood. As a true leader, she provides the vision and direction, and then builds and motivates a strong team to work together to reach their objectives. This year's House of Paint, that she's coordinating as part of the Canada Dance Festival HipHop360, has a site here.

There has been an increased effort locally to control graffiti by focusing on eradication and criminalization, based on a “tough on crime” mandate and narrow focus. This summer will be an opportunity in Ottawa to use legal walls and mural projects to break down some of the virtual walls we’ve seen raised between “us” and “them”. An opportunity to build on the support and vision already shown by some, to encourage more open and creative attitudes and approaches – from city staff, police, council, and residents.

I'll also be going thru the report City Staff had prepared, in an attempt to clarify some of what they had presented as evidence to support their claims - especially that which is anecdotal, or outdated, or not applicable to the issues unique to Ottawa. If anyone out there is good at research (especially on-line) and can assess info from a logical point of view - I'd appreciate the help.

As many of you know, one of my resources in Toronto has been the group CAVE (Communities Advancing Valued Environments), I’ve been able to both learn from them and contribute some of my ideas. They  “empower and engage individuals to become active participants in transforming their communities” – which has included a number of successful neighbourhood transformations using graffiti murals to bridge between youth, property owners, and community residents. At my last meeting with them it was suggested (and I accepted) that I prime their first expansion, to Ottawa. I’m looking forward to using the resources and experiences of CAVE to add to mix here in Ottawa.

Their main site is at

Toronto Graffiti Transformation - TPS

As I've mentioned in here before, one of my sources of information - and inspiration - has been Toronto's program for graffiti control. They refer to it as a transformation program, since they use it to not just cover up tagging but links together youth, property owners, and community members. The program  lets them work together to transform what is often a neglected and rundown area, with garbage and drug dealers in it, into a clean and colourful part of their community. A key mover in this is Constable Scott Mills of Toronto Police, I started getting info from him a few months ago and ended up going down and helping on a couple of projects - this let me see both the planning and execution stages. I'm helping him document this transformation for the TPS and other sites - the attached draft document is what's been put together so far. Document could change,so check back - this site supports RSS feeds.

Download Toronto_graffiti_transformation_MY_May_2.pdf (4587.5K)

Another letter supporting legal walls

This is another letter recently sent in. The City staff were initially quite adament in today's presentation to council that their studies of legal walls show that they do not work. I wasn't able to find more than anecdotal data in their report to support that. I'll follow up - in the mean time looks like the two legal/tolerated areas in the city will be left alone for a year. Not sure of the specifics that define the success or non-success of this - more to come later I'm sure.

The letter is below:

Continue reading "Another letter supporting legal walls" »