Does Toronto Lose Something With City-Sanctioned Street Art?
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Does Toronto Lose Something With City-Sanctioned Street Art?

What does street art's illicit nature contribute to its aesthetic?

street art

BY: Unknown
LOCATION: Toronto West Rail Path and Wallace
PHOTO BY: Martin Reis
FIELD NOTES: Lately, a lot of Toronto’s best street art has been made through government-run or government-sponsored initiatives (like Outside the Box, Underpass Park, and the Love Letter Projects). In many ways it’s great that Toronto has embraced the aesthetic of graffiti. These projects produce gorgeous work that contribute an exuberance and vibrancy to our cityscape, and add new opportunities for people to participate in or discover the arts (galleries aren’t everyone’s cup of tea). They create new platforms and provide income to some incredibly talented artists who have been giving their art to the city for free for years, too. But does Toronto lose something when our graffiti becomes sanctioned and sanitized? One of the great things about illegal graffiti is that it provides a platform for expression to people of all positions in life. By putting legal street art in areas typically utilized by vandals are we transforming graffiti into a classist art form, and losing part of what makes it special? Are we benefiting from the appropriation of a traditionally illicit, often critical, genre while simultaneously stifling it? And is it a contradiction for the City to glorify sanctioned graffiti while villainizing the illegal graffiti that, permission aside, is frequently interchangeable with the sanctioned work?

Once a week, Vandalist features some of the most interesting street art and graffiti from around Toronto. Find something great? Email [email protected].