Mayor Rob Ford made headlines by spraying away graffiti from city walls, but now he’s going to leave some of the spraying to the graffiti artists.
A new graffiti strategy was adopted by city council at its July meeting to help guide anti-vandalism efforts that have been ratcheted up under Ford’s leadership.
While the city intends to crack down on tagging and other quick simplistic forms of graffiti, it appears set to recognize more involved types of graffiti as genuine art.
“I think (the new plan) more clearly differentiates between legal graffiti art and illegal graffiti that is vandalism,” said Elyse Parker, a director of transportation services.
The new plan includes both rigorous enforcement measures and a method of recognizing legal graffiti murals. It will also coordinate all city-contracted graffiti removal, which should bring the cost down to businesses and individuals required by law to remove non-artistic works.
“Businesses will not be receiving notices (to remove) graffiti art that is truly art-like,” said Parker. “Unless it does not look art-like it will stay.
“The intent is … there should be less illegal graffiti and more opportunities for great street art and legal graffiti.”
What is and isn’t art is subject to interpretation and under the current bylaw those determinations will be made by local community councils.
But the adopted report has recommended that it will be a panel of city staff who that authority will be delegated to.
The owner of the Bomb Shelter, a graffiti supply shop at Queen Street and Spadina Avenue, says he’s not entirely pleased to know that city staff will be judging what is considered art.
“That doesn’t make any sense unless the (city staffer) has a full art degree,” said the owner who is known by the name Zion.
He said that city staff lack knowledge of graffiti culture and that their efforts to eradicate tagging may actually end up having the opposite effect.
“Without them having understanding of these basic elements and learning how to work with and around (tagging) they’re going to cause more divisiveness and you’re going to see more and more tags up,” he said.
Graffiti, like any other art form, takes time to learn and master, he explained. An informal hierarchy exists in the graffiti culture and within it graffiti artists, much like the city councillors, view tagging as a lower form of graffiti art. Still, Zion points out, it’s an essential and necessary step in an artist’s development.
“What people like is usually the end result of you developing that hand style to create a wild style, fully developed piece,” he said. “So there is not graffiti without the tags.
“The tag represents the core of what the graffiti culture is all about.”
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