Growing up, we were warned not to even think about tagging a building with a can of secretly purchased spray paint. Today, however, graffiti is losing some of that bad rep.
Though haters naturally remain (especially when it comes to private property), it appears that we’re experiencing a shift from graffiti as a form of disruptive vandalism to a well-respected, celebrated art form like any other, and one that actually beautifies city streets and public places.
One Toronto young professional (YP), Jason Kucherawy, knows a thing or two about street art. You may have caught his talk “History of Graffiti and What Lies Ahead” a few weeks back at The Artist Project. He also shares his graffiti love and knowledge as a Toronto tour guide.
The selection of urban art at The Artist Project coupled with a changing attitude towards graffiti was inspiration enough to catch up with Kucherawy and hear about some of the Instagram-worthy graffiti art that graces Toronto’s buildings, underpasses, and laneways.
A natural first choice is Graffiti Alley, which runs south of Queen Street West between Spadina Avenue and Portland Street. Year-round, it’s full of both social media photo-takers and professional photographers alike.
A little further west, Kucherawy recommends the laneway with garage doors that runs along west of Ossington from Queen Street West to Dundas Street West. The next time you hit the Ossington strip for dinner, you may want to arrive a little early to check it out. A quick walk away, Kucherawy also suggests the underpass near the entrance to the Dundas West UP Express Station.
#graffitialley #streetart #toronto #streetphotography #insta_toronto #ig_toronto #torontophotography A photo posted by @dorzee_1959 on
Not surprisingly, Kensington Market is also a hot spot for some quality graffiti art. “You can find some interesting stuff in the various alleys and lanes around Kensington Market and off of nearby College Street,” he says.
The “Keele Wall,” which runs north of Bloor Street West from Keele Station and Dundas West Station on the subway line, is also a quality graffiti spot, according to Kucherawy. “You can see the art from the subway, but it’s best to get off at either station and walk to it,” he says. But don’t expect to see the same art twice. “It’s hard to list my favourite pieces because many of them are gone, painted over and replaced by new work,” says Kucherawy when I asked for specifics. “Others might be there today but will be gone tomorrow.”
Of course, that’s the case for most of the city’s graffiti-filled spots. “It’s always changing, but the general areas to see graffiti don’t really change,” says Kucherawy. “If you go to any of these spots you’ll see some of the best out there.”
He does, however, have a favourite. It’s a massive coral reef scene painted in by Uber 5000 that spans the exterior of a downtown building.
Just because graffiti art is short-lived doesn’t mean the talent behind it is undermined. “There are a lot of artists doing great work, and catching the best while it’s up means putting time and effort into keeping track of what’s where. But most people don’t have the time or interest in doing that,” says Kucherawy.
That’s why it may help to have a little assistance.
“Having a local guide helps save you time spent looking for the best and can take you right to it,” says Kucherawy. “Taking a tour with a local guide who knows the scene is the best bang for your buck, and our tours (Tour Guys) are what people do when they want a great graffiti experience.”