BY: NADIA ZAIDI
Growing up in Toronto, I’ve never thought much about graffiti. It was always something within the backdrop of my visual experience. Bold, intricate — sometimes simplistic — artwork amid the city’s contemporary and historical landscape is a normal scene.
Despite how adorned our city walls are, there remains a steadfast view on graffiti as crude and distasteful. Truthfully, I see art as art. I think it’s a showcase of talent, and raw artistic inhibition in abstract representation. At the same token, it’s not to be confused for graffiti vandalism. That’s an entirely different landscape (pun intended!) Young talent should be encouraged, celebrated and showcased.
The 80s saw a rise in street art, when a popular artist, who called himself Ren, showcased his undeniable talent throughout public canvasses across the city. Since then, it’s become a huge part of the city’s art scene.
I love that graffiti has become nurtured and welcomed as part of Toronto’s street culture. I’m inherently biased when I speak about my own city, but the acceptance and celebration of graffiti represents our progressive culture. Freedom of expression is reflected through the graffiti present in various neighbourhoods.
So where are the best places to view Toronto’s best graffiti? Well, it depends on what you consider great, of course! According to my humble opinion, these are five of the best places to appreciate graffiti in the Six.
The name says it all. Graffiti alley stretches nearly a kilometre, and features some of the very best graffiti. A bright spectacle of art lights this alleyway. You can bet that it’s one of the most popular places to film, take photographs, and even get inspired. Each summer, a group called Style in Progress takes over the wall for an entire day to paint. If you are new to Toronto, or planning a visit, this is one destination you shouldn’t miss.
Just step out onto the streets of Kensington and you are greeted with endless wall art. There is also a very special alleyway dedicated to graffiti art. What I love about the graffiti at Kensington are the vibrant colours and picturesque graphics that tell a story of their own.
East side mural
This has to be one of the best places to see graffiti in the city. The work was done by a group called the 80s Graffiti Knights Crew, and is somewhat iconic with that particular area in Toronto. What makes it great is that commuters along that line are sure to see the bold artwork on their daily commute.
Queen Street West
A walk down the infamous Queen’s street in Toronto is an experience to remember. Graffiti is part of what gives this area distinct amalgamation of cosmopolitan and alternative vibes. Random pieces of wall-art graffiti by some of the best artists in the city adorn the alleyways and routes here.
If you don’t know Toronto, then this is one of those hidden gems of graffiti discovery. It rests under the Don Valley Parkway and has bold colours, interesting, and artistic designs with work by eclectic and prolific artists. Elaborate murals showcase faces, graphics, and words — this is graffiti at its underground finest.