You’d find street art tucked away in the nooks of every city, but there are only a few places where graffiti is celebrated with kilometer-long stretches of colourful murals.
Queen’s Street is one of them. Known to be a hip neighborhood in downtown Toronto, it helps that Graffiti Alley only adds to the trendiness. The area comprises of bleak buildings turned into canvases with splashes of colour, paying homage to an art form often seen as vandalism. The art represents all that is right and wrong with gentrification at the same time.
On a past visit to Canada, I visited Kensington Market that has more than just decrepit buildings. A creative mark had been left on everything with a surface – restaurants, cafes, boutiques and even old, wrecked cars!
This time around, it was a frigid day when I headed to Graffiti Alley in Toronto. It hadn’t snowed in a couple of days and the pristine white fluffy blanket was turning into brown slush, the icy water almost making itself felt through our thick socks and boots. That’s probably why we had the place all to ourselves, save for the occasional snow plough that came through, spraying the lanes with salt to melt the ice, time and again.
We spent a good 40 minutes getting lost in the maze of buildings. And when the cold really got to us, we popped into one of the many cafés in the area – Aroma Espresso Bar, for some hot chocolate with marshmallows before heading out into the alley again. If it was summer, I’m pretty sure I could have spent another couple of hours wandering through the buildings. The hipster vibe, the sound of the streetcar running up and down the street, people popping in and out of funky looking stores – I could soak it all in and never tire!
Are you as obsessed with graffiti as I am? I’ve always thought of it as being a city’s outdoor museum. Stencilled quotes and urban memes talking about issues to those who care to stop and ponder; cartoon characters and menacing demons peeping out from alleys as you walk down the street – what’s not to love!
This Graffiti Alley stretch is popular in summer, when Torontonians and tourists decend upon it, posing in front of bright fish and pastel flowers, and marvelling at some pieces that are really worthy of a spot in an art gallery. And I’m not even exaggerating here! After all, anyone can spray paint a peace sign on a wall, but creating a mural that spans the length of a building, forcing people to stop, stand and admire it, well, that’s art.
The streets are sometimes dirty places, but it’s often in these same settings where splendid artistry meets rebellious spirits. It’s not just about aesthetics, but originality and provocation, both essential ingredients of a masterpiece. From stark to profound, colourful to gloomy and empowering to crass –Graffiti Alley has it all.
This is one place to really spend a good long afternoon, wandering around, feasting your eyes on the smaller-easier pieces that are as astounding as some of the massive ones. Take a stroll through Toronto’s street art spots and get lost in a colourful maze of bright, dizzying, intriguing art.
If you’re a self-respecting ‘grammer, here’s where you should be headed! I flaunted my new workout gear from Zelocity by Zivame that day, since the weather was a bit more bearable.
Can’t wait to share more of the adventures in Canada with you soon!