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2005 07 26
Graffiti Alley

Sandwiched in between Queen and Richmond an alleyway runs from Spadina to Augusta. This is the main artery of what is known as Graffiti Alley. Almost every surface within this area (back walls, side walls, doors, doorways, lighting poles, fire hydrants, fire escapes . . .) is saturated with graffiti art.

Although graffiti can be seen everywhere in Toronto, it is by no means as pervasive as it is in areas within other cities. So to happen upon Graffiti Alley, to see the concentration and density of graffiti for the first time, is quite surprising. I love spotting a newbie notice a bit of graffiti at first and then be drawn deeper into the alleyway and become awestruck by what they've discovered.

As many locals do, I cross through Graffiti Alley as a short cut so often (usually on my way to grab some lunch or to return a DVD at Queen Video) that the massive swathes of colour and graphics usually go unnoticed. But one day a few weeks ago I had the exact same reaction as someone first discovering the Alley, but from the exact opposite experience: the entire alleyway was blanketed with beige paint. Almost every square inch of graffiti was wiped away. Did the city's proposed anti-graffiti law already go into effect? Was there one drop too many of spray paint for the local businesses and property owners so they finally had enough?

I did notice a few lonesome tags among the beige. The tags were for "styleinprogress.ca". Curious I eventually tried out the URL at home. For those as un-hip as I am, Style In Progress is a non-profit organization that promotes urban culture by producing exhibitions and events.

I now know that this was done as part of preparations for the SIP 05 festival which took place 2 weekends ago. On a Sunday afternoon Graffiti Alley was transformed completely back to its namesake. I was one of hundreds of onlookers who witnessed the graffiti jam. It was amazing to see dozens of graffiti artists ply their craft right out in the open. One usually only ever sees the end product but very rarely the process. I didn't stay too long as I was crossing through to get somewhere else, as usual.

A few days later while walking by I did stop to carefully peruse all of the graffiti and a bit glad to see all of it back. I plan on stopping by to view the Alley's amazing ongoing transformation more often now.
[email this story] Posted by Gilbert Li on 07/26 at 09:11 PM

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