The creator of many of those Rob Ford stencils you've seen around town talks about graffiti, legal enforcement, and the state of street art in Toronto.
Between the Lines is a documentary looking at graffiti in Toronto that will be released in 2013. In the meantime, Torontoist has partnered with the filmmakers to develop Graffiti Talks, a series of web shorts profiling some key figures in the Toronto graffiti scene. Some are sympathetic, some offensive; hopefully all are thought-provoking.
Many things changed when Rob Ford became mayor of Toronto. One of the most noticeable was the City’s approach to managing graffiti. Ford, famously, made cleaning up the walls of Toronto one of his missions. Bylaw officers started sending out notices to businesses proactively (previously, they had waited for complaints), and the mayor himself even took a power washer to one wall to make his point.
Needless to say, while this ratcheted up tensions, it did little to stop graffiti writers—in fact, many saw an opportunity to fight back on the very walls Ford was trying to scrub. It also revived our public discussions about graffiti and street art more broadly: the City held several graffiti-themed events, and debates about aesthetic merits versus public space versus private property waged on.
Some documentary filmmakers in Toronto are hoping to shed light on all this: they’ve been working on a film about Toronto graffiti since shortly after Rob Ford was elected. That film is called Between the Lines, and we are very excited that producers Kelli Kieley and James Gen Meers have given us—and you—a sneak peek at their footage. Today and over the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing a series of web shorts—profiles of some key figures in Toronto’s graffiti community—as a preview of the full-length film.
We don’t expect the controversy around graffiti to resolve itself anytime soon—it’s a form of art born of tension, after all—but we do think that learning more about the people who make the tags, stencils, and murals we see every day can only enhance our collective conversation about the subject. And so here are some of those people, in their own words.