Toronto has begun its implementation of a committee approval process to protect legal works done with Spray Paint. While many will see this is as a positive pro-active measure, it is inherently flawed for several reasons. First, and most important, the artwork was ALREADY LEGAL!! Why does the government need to legalize a mural that was already done with the owner’s consent and paid for by the same owner? Large-scale pieces of work that the artists worked on for hours even days are still being threatened with removal despite the artists doing all of the right things. This act is a smokescreen to divert the public’s attention to the fact that the city is claiming the right to paint over permitted works simply because of their aesthetic! No one is questioning tile murals, mosaics, frescos, acrylic mural or digital prints. The only art form that is receiving this type of scrutiny is work painted with spray paint. And even specific types of work painted with spray are still explicitly prohibited whether the artist was permitted or not. Aerosol works have been sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars in the most high end art auctions. The same aesthetic has been used to market everything from T-shirts to television shows since the 1970s. But somehow in the midst of this widespread, rampant success (possibly the most popular artform the world has ever seen), the aesthetic is still under attack by city governments around the world, to the point that even a public art friendly city like Toronto is still acting like it is doing aerosol writers a favor by CONSIDERING by COMMITTEE to not destroy their elaborate commissioned works. How generous!
In the United States, legally created public artwork is protected by the VARA act, a federal law that prohibits the destruction of original artwork with less than 50 copies. This was designed for prints, however, its has been applied to murals. However, Canadian government appears to behind in this regard. Aerosol writers need to be vigilant in their exertion that all art be respected equally under the law, regardless of aesthetic. We cannot allow a double standard to be applied to based on the medium that was used to create it, particularly when that judgement is used to destroy our artwork and criminalize the artists.
Graffiti on Queen West
Graffiti on Queen West
Photo Credit: Mark McAllister , Global News


TORONTO – Some Toronto business owners have won approval to keep colourful street art on their buildings under the city’s new graffiti management plan.

Toronto’s graffiti panel has decided to allow the murals on private properties along Queen Street West, College Street, Vanauley Street and Bloor Street West.

The five-member board discussed for the first time on Friday whether nine murals should be designated as legal graffiti art.

A decision on the other pieces has been deferred until the panel’s next meeting on Nov. 30.

The creation of the panel was recommended in a 2011 city report on graffiti policy that said Toronto spends more than $1 million to clean up graffiti and enforce rules requiring property owners to remove it at their own expense.

Under the new graffiti management plan adopted last year, business owners are allowed to apply for approval to keep graffiti art on their buildings, which the city says is “differentiated from ‘tagging’ which is generally characterized by writing and with the act of vandalism.”

James Lafazanos, a representative for the saved 899 College St. mural, said they’ve had to repaint the building a couple of times because of frequent tagging.

However, they decided to hire a skilled artist to paint a mural on the wall, including an image of a smiling, friendly-looking anime character – and they haven’t had a problem since.

“I’m all for artistic expression that makes people smile,” Lafazanos said.

Jane Perdue, a panel member and public art co-ordinator of the city’s urban planning division, said that owners facing the same situation should follow suit and consider all possible solutions.

“It’s worth mentioning that the owner has been proactive in trying to find a solution to being tagged,” said Perdue. “I think it’s commendable to be proactive in these situations.”

Read it on Global News: Global Toronto | Some Toronto graffiti can stay; panel decision on other ‘street art’ due Nov. 30