February 19, 2016

Highlights from Toronto’s Garage Door Street Art

They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and that you know art when you see it.

Whether homeowners and businesses like it or not, Toronto’s residential garage doors and walls of businesses have become canvases for some of the most talented (and not-so-talented) graffiti artists and muralists.

Highlights from Toronto's Garage door street art

A Brief History of Graffiti as Art in Toronto

A decade ago, graffiti was certainly not considered “art”, and tourists would not have been flocking to some of Toronto’s hippest neighborhoods to see what are essentially outdoor art galleries.

Like many urban communities, Toronto’s urban centers struggled with the problem of graffiti, and “tagged” business owners were faced with both clean up costs, and public perception that their location wasn’t “safe.”

A number of community activists, innovators, and artists, however, turned graffiti into garage door art, creating outdoor art galleries, which drive economic growth and provide some of the area’s most disadvantaged and vulnerable youth with a creative outlet.

Graffiti Accepted as Legal Art

According to some organizers, this organized graffiti project lends “colour and is evidence of a vibrant living creative class.” This garage door art project has drawn the attention of famous graffiti artists, including the elusive Banksy, who lent his talents to the outside of the Ocho Hotel a few years ago.

While graffiti carries a stiff bill for business owners, graffiti art commissioned as a mural is legal, and the movement is inspiring neighbourhoods to celebrate their heritage, art, and culture one wall at a time.

The Best of Garage Door Street Art in Toronto

If you’re looking to experience some of Toronto’s most famous garage door art, here’s a list:

  • Graffiti Alley, also known as Rush Lane or Rick Mercer’s Alley, boasts almost a kilometre of art, and highlights some of the original garage door art pioneers, like the kids from the CrossFit Graffiti Art Project.
  • Kensington Market is a bohemian neighbourhood which celebrates the area’s ethnic heritage and looks to its future growth and potential.
  • The Ossington Laneway is Toronto’s newest “hip strip” and is decorated with dozens of decorated garage doors.
  • Brighten your commute by catching a glimpse of the Keele-Dundas Wall on your trip downtown on the Bloor West Line.
  • The Kenwood Lane Art Initiative challenged artists to paint 21 murals, on 21 garage doors, in 21 days.

The Art Community and the City Prosper

Garage door art changes an underutilized space into a public art project and living art gallery, as the murals and pictures are always changing. The art reflects the heart of the community, often highlighting socially positive messages and graphic representations of the neighbourhood’s history.

Furthermore, this evolving art project is driving economic activity, as both locals and tourists go out of their way to see the art and then spend time and money in local businesses.

You can stay up to date on the street art movement and garage door graffiti program by following StreetARToronto on Facebook or Twitter.

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