Squeaky Green Message
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Squeaky Green Message

A pedestrian walks by new graffiti. Photo by Jessica King/Torontoist.

If you are walking by the northwest corner of Bloor and Spadina, be sure to look down: there is a message amongst the black splotches of chewing gum and the general grime of the city that reads “Cultivate Grace,” a message that may at first look as though it were spray-painted onto the concrete but that was actually created by a stencil and a high-pressure water hose and is repeated every twenty feet from Spadina to just past Brunswick Avenue. That’s right: the whiteness of the letters is the original colour of the sidewalk under your feet.

Creating the message. Photo by Andreas Duess from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

The message was created by Mike Jansen of Green Graffiti, an advertising agency responsible for similar messages in Holland, and organized by Andreas Duess of Toronto’s Fisheye Corporation for a client that is to remain secret until next Monday, when the second half of the message will be blasted into the sidewalk. This is Green Graffiti’s first appearance in Canada, although a similar technique was used in Vancouver for Homelessness Action Week. According to Duess, the medium is meant to evoke environmentalism; the creation of the ad itself involves making a dirty environment cleaner, and the team made sure that the entire process was carbon neutral, as all energy and water expenditures involved were compensated for by supplying money to programs like Green Ads Blue, which is responsible for purifying rain water in Brazil for household use. (Duess also emphasized that the client is a good fit for the green medium.)
“We’re trying to get businesses to behave in a way people like,” said Duess, who believed that the contrast between the lightness of the lettering and the griminess of the rest of the street sends its own message. He also pointed out that people will be reminded of how polluted the city is as the message fades over the next one to two weeks.

The case of the disappearing ad. Photo by Jessica King/Torontoist.

In the evening, though, the message is not clearly visible anyway, until you’re right on top of it if you are walking from east to west, as Torontoist discovered upon a visit at 5:30 p.m. Those walking in the opposite direction at that time didn’t appear to notice either, and none of the five pedestrians we asked had noticed the ad; one pedestrian suggested that “maybe our streets aren’t dirty enough,” which may be the case, as similar ads for such organizations as National Geographic Channel and MTV in Holland look more striking. A fruit vendor, who also hadn’t been aware of the new ad not twenty feet from his stall, dubbed it “cool” when we pointed it out to him, but added that he would have preferred to have the whole sidewalk hosed down.