Be curious… about people, nature & art!
Something I’ve noticed around campus this year is that vast majority of my fellow students walk the streets with their eyes cast down onto their beloved smart phones. Others are chatting far too loudly on them and some are just tuned out altogether with ear-buds. Of course all these behaviors have some risk while crossing streets and maneuvering around cars. I read a study on-line this week that states that serious injuries have been linked with pedestrians wearing headphones, and injuries have more than tripled in the past six years. However, my main point here is that nobody seems to be looking up and taking in their surroundings.
Perhaps my demographic is not quite as attached to hand-held devices as the average 23 year old, or perhaps it’s a result of my upbringing. My parents encouraged me to plug into my environment and not into inanimate objects. They taught me the joy of being curious – curious about people, curious about nature, and curious about art and architecture. And trust me, there are plenty of things to be curious about in the south Etobicoke neighborhood. It’s all yours (and free) for the taking if you look up from your devices, check out the surroundings, soak in the sights and experience the world.
Our Lakeshore Village is a neighborhood in transition, and yes, there are many unpleasant things so see here; there are obvious signs of poverty in the form of homeless people and dilapidated buildings, but there are some wonderful things to be seen as well. There are happy children skipping along the sidewalks, cyclists enjoying the lake front bike trail and hundreds of glorious gardens and stately old trees. Aside from the lake, my favourite feature of this area is the amazing collection of colorful urban artwork.
Soak in the sights & experience your world
Normally we refer to urban artwork as graffiti, but many of the works I’ve recently photographed for this blog have actually been commissioned by the city. The City of Toronto Cultural Services and Lakeshore Village BIA (business improvement area) have implemented a street-scape improvement plan. This plan includes the installation of decorative lamp posts, planters, more than 100 trees, and several large-scale photo-realistic paintings. They have commissioned innovative artists to create wall murals that are relevant to this community to enrich the urban experience for both residents and visitors to our city.
These artists have created some of the most stunning multi-story wall paintings I’ve seen, and they deserve some attention. The paintings typically cover a brick wall on the side of a mom and pop retail store. Several of these works are as large as 40 feet wide by 3 stories high. It thrills me that our public servants have made urban murals and graffiti an acceptable form of art. It’s a new way of thinking. Or is it? Let’s not forget that creating art in public places has been going on for centuries and has existed since ancient times, with examples dating back to Ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire. Most societies shared their stories with pictures, writings and carvings on all kinds of outdoor public surfaces.
The beauty & talent is hard to ignore!
Not all of the artwork found on our neighborhood walls were legally commissioned. The photo to the right shows a street artist hard at work. I had been passing his unfinished painting for weeks, and when I actually observed the artist working on it, I just had to talk to him. I pulled my car over and began asking him questions about the piece – after all I’m a curious girl. He clearly did not to want to share his story with me. Initially I thought he was shy or too modest to speak about his work, but when I asked if I could photograph him, he quickly and sternly told me not to shoot his face. This was my confirmation that he was not commissioned by the city and that he was a spontaneous graffiti artist – talented just the same.
Many would argue that spending taxpayers’ money on urban art is out-of-line in this economy, and that the money could and should be spent on more tangible improvements to a neighborhood. And others strongly feel that graffiti artists should be punished for their artistic crimes. I agree with Gordon Douglas who wrote: Graffiti isn’t always a sign of criminal disorder; it can actually be a boon to cities’ economies. In some cases, graffiti can be a positive economic force for a city, rather than just a sign of crime. “The truth is, at this point, some graffiti and street art are arguably contributing to gentrification and contributing to increases in the appeal of certain neighborhoods,”
However, I’m still on the fence about the legalities of defacing private property. I’m not sure I would appreciate it if a painter took artistic liberties with my building or fence. The beauty and talent of some of these pieces is hard to ignore!
What do you think?
- Should graffiti artists be prosecuted?
- Should our city spend taxpayers dollars on commissioned urban art?
- Lakeshore Village BIA
- Toronto Street Art