Yes, art is subjective. However, illegal graffiti and tagging on private and public property are also, well, illegal. That said, in a place like Toronto, there’s so much concrete canvas for people to paint around the city. It’s inevitable that unwanted and unsanctioned tagging will happen. So in order to combat this, the City of Toronto began running a collection of programs in 2012 under the name of StreetARToronto, or StART.
Essentially, StART runs several different programs every year, like the ‘Outside the Box’, ‘Support Mural’, ‘Underpass’ and ‘Partnership’ initiatives, which aim to reduce vandalism by allowing sanctioned artists to create beautiful works on places of high risk. Interestingly, this program benefits everyone. Artists get a safe space to work and express themselves, pedestrians get breathtaking art to view all across their city and the overall infrastructure of Toronto is improved.
Below, the programs run by StART will be explained in further detail, as well as some featured pieces that really show how talented the GTA community of artists really is.
Outside the Box Program:
The Outside the Box program is Toronto’s unique way of preventing vandalism on traffic boxes while simultaneously giving opportunities to local artists. Chances are you’ve probably seen one of these traffic boxes before, regardless if you stopped to take a good look or not.
Alice Zhang’s Work on Adelaide St W & Brant St
Made in 2018, Alice Zhang’s traffic box in the fashion district is as elegant as it is beautiful. This piece features some local bird species in the city and uses soft pastel colours that are easy on the eyes.
Untitled Work on Parliament St & Mill St
Made in 2015, this piece uses surreal techniques to create a 3-dimensional draping curtain. It’s a blend of classic style with a modern street art medium.
Matt Cohen’s Work on Dundas St E & Sumach St
Made in 2015, Matt Cohen’s Regent Park traffic box is one to truly ponder. This work pays respect to the many photographers that can be seen all around The 6ix. It also features some really awesome abstract shapes that are coloured to pop out of the grey background.
Support Mural Program:
Another one of StART’s programs is the Support Mural program. Put into place by the city to paint over large areas of wall that are easily accessible for vandalism and have had a repeat history of tagging. Although a lot of these high-risk walls are part of privately owned buildings, the city provides grants to owners and artists in order to facilitate the creation of the Support Murals. Here are a few of the many eye-catching murals.
five8 / birdO & Friends’ Mural on 120 Ossington Ave
Made in 2017, this collaboration piece by two of the program’s frequently featured artists is a lot to take in. This collage of provocative designs demands to be examined by viewers in order to reveal all of its details.
Christiano De Arajuo’s Mural on 1140 Bloor St W
Made in 2016, this perspective-bending mural located in Bloordale Village makes you wish you were there. The bright and peaceful garden scene that’s painted turns a boring city wall into a work of art.
Tim Fukakusa’s Mural on 339 Spadina Ave
Made in 2014, this Kensington Market mural is equal parts representative and grand.
Other StART Programs:
The Underpass Program aims at creating graffiti art on the support beams and walls of underpasses in the city. The Concrete Barrier program’s goal is fairly straightforward. Artists can paint the concrete barriers that separate the roads and bike lanes. StART also partners with private organizations to create special programs that have more specific goals, like the creation of large-scale murals that serve as centrepieces in the neighbourhoods around the city.
Rolande Souliere’s Pedestrian Underpass
Made in 2015 and located at the Bala Pedestrian Underpass, this ‘Underpass’ program piece is derived from First Peoples’ culture. By incorporating the colours of the Four Directions, Souliere’s work is as stunning as it is meaningful.
birdO’s Deer Park Monumental Program Mural
Made in 2019, this mammoth of a mural is located on 1 St. Clair Ave E. In partnership with Slate Asset Management, StART and artist birdO created a massive and interesting community centrepiece that reflects the Deer Park neighbourhood.
Now that you’ve seen a small fraction of the many amazing works facilitated by StART, it’s time to do some exploring of your own. Use StART’s interactive map of the city so you can look through your neighbourhood and every other one to see more beautiful and interesting pieces by some of the GTA’s best artists.
Featured Image: Patrick Tomasso