The Other Expo
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The Other Expo

artcrawl.gifGraffiti is one of those hot button issues in any large city. For some it’s a symbol of urban decay and crime, a sign that a neighbourhood will soon be overrun by gangs, drugs and other unsavoury elements. For many others, it’s a vital form of artistic expression for those who are disenfranchised and for whom the traditional gallery and art establishment isn’t accessible nor relevant to their day to day experience.
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This weekend’s 10th Annual Graffiti Expo comes at a crucial time for graff artists in Toronto. Talk about a Clean and Beautiful City has meant that everything from postering to graffiti is now under scrutiny as being urban eyesores. Many councillors are perpetuating a very narrow definition of urban beauty, one where lampposts and hoardings are devoid of posters but “free” garbage cans with seven foot tall ads litter our streets. It’s a suburban, middle class, standard of beauty and orderliness that doesn’t take into consideration the poor, the underprivileged, immigrants and the needs of local culture.
Events like the graffiti expo are interesting in their own right. They are establishement approved instances where graffiti artists can actually create work without doing so under the cover of night and fear of law enforcement. If we look at the work and artistry that goes into some of the pieces this weekend, even the most jaded might have to acknowledge that there’s artistic merit in graffiti. But the experience is probably not unlike looking at animals in a zoo. Caged and controlled, there’s little or no spontaneity. There’s none of the magic of wandering through the streets and alleys of the city and finding yourself face-to-face with evidence that an artist had been there.

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