The Graffiti Street Art of Toronto, Canada

This mural of a flower lady in Kensington Market, Toronto, was the biggest we saw and the most beautiful.  She is stood next to the 'garden car'.

This mural of a flower lady in Kensington Market, Toronto, was the biggest we saw and the most beautiful. She is stood next to the ‘garden car’.

A Gallery Walk Through Kensington Market | Sharon Henry

Opinion about graffiti, or street art, is split down the middle; one person’s art is another’s vandalism.

The city of Toronto, in Canada, has embraced the culture of graffiti, a move that has boosted the city’s tourism industry. There are many graffiti walking tours available that will set you back around $30. People actually visit Toronto just to admire the graffiti and the city also hosts street art festivals.

Mischief In Kensington Market

We’ve seen graffiti in many places but none as striking as Toronto. We stumbled upon the city’s street art scene during an early morning stroll along Spadina Avenue, downtown. When most were sipping their first mug of coffee we were on the streets discovering these epic murals, spray-painted onto the city’s buildings. One dazzling painting after another.

The 'garden car' was formally a 2001 Ford Taurus and has been in place on the streets of Toronto for around 10 years.  Green car is part of the Community Vehicular Reclamation Project and is the product of Rock & Adrian Hayles Productions.com.

The ‘garden car’ was formally a 2001 Ford Taurus and has been in place on the streets of Toronto for around 10 years. Green car is part of the Community Vehicular Reclamation Project and is the product of Rock & Adrian Hayles Productions.com.

An eclectic mix of colours, lines and shapes and a reference to 'Wopbabalubop' days.

An eclectic mix of colours, lines and shapes and a reference to ‘Wopbabalubop’ days.

This one looks menacing with the scary face.  Love how the piping has been painted adding a 3D effect. We found this design at the end of a side alley.

This one looks menacing with the scary face. Love how the piping has been painted adding a 3D effect. We found this design at the end of a side alley.

After view so much weird and wacky sights on our walk through Kensington Market, even these bins suddenly looked artistic!

After view so much weird and wacky sights on our walk through Kensington Market, even these bins suddenly looked artistic!

At first it felt slightly mischievous admiring the ‘work’; wasn’t graffiti illegal?

But, because there was so much, concentrated in the area of Kensington Market we soon figured it was a consensual feature of the neighbourhood. Plus, these weren’t of the tacky, property defacing variety; these were beautifully and painstakingly put together. The skill required to create such detailed works of art was undeniable and we were spellbound.

Graffiti Management in Toronto

The streets were quiet, save a few shop keepers opening shutters, otherwise the place was ours to roam freely with little distractions. Although graffiti is perceived to be gang-related, what we saw felt intrinsically part of the community; the area felt safe. Lured by elaborate, colourful designs we entered deserted alleyways and back-ways; an easy hour photographing and appreciating the art.

Moai in Toronto - Love how the vine adds to this mural of the Easter Island heads.  Note the 'no parking' sign didn't get painted over.

Moai in Toronto – Love how the vine adds to this mural of the Easter Island heads. Note the ‘no parking’ sign didn’t get painted over.

Love the authenticity of this backyard gate.  The lazy face also seems to be issuing a gentle warning about entering.

Love the authenticity of this backyard gate. The lazy face also seems to be issuing a gentle warning about entering.

Darrin stood outside Roach Rama, an establishment that claims to be 'serving potheads since ah... I forget'.

Darrin stood outside Roach Rama, an establishment that claims to be ‘serving potheads since ah… I forget’.

Attraction to this mural was powerful with the beckoning hands and aged lines of the wise face.  Note the twitter account of the artist.  Graffiti murals of Kensington Market in Toronto.

Attraction to this mural was powerful with the beckoning hands and aged lines of the wise face. Note the twitter account of the artist. Graffiti murals of Kensington Market in Toronto.

Toronto Street Art - An elaborate tag (name signature) spices up the shutters of this restaurant.

Toronto Street Art – An elaborate tag (name signature) spices up the shutters of this restaurant.

Coming from the island of St Helena where graffiti in any form is virtually non-existent, Toronto’s street art was an eye-opener.

We later found out Toronto have a Graffiti Management Plan whereby an official panel decides whether or not a design is aesthetically pleasing enough to remain in place. Also they encourage building owners to work with graffiti artists for commissioned work. There is even an artist directory.

Graffiti – Art Or Vandalism?

Our favourite that morning was a funky afro diva painted onto a garage door; clever highlighting and shading brought it alive. In fact they were all so amazingly cool it gave the city a modern, trendy vibe.

The funky afro diva which appears to have been drawn by three Toronto artists.  Our favourite of the collection.

The funky afro diva which appears to have been drawn by three Toronto artists. Our favourite of the collection.

An entire alley wall covered in a camouflage-like design. Alleys in this part of Toronto have become inviting art galleries.

An entire alley wall covered in a camouflage-like design. Alleys in this part of Toronto have become inviting art galleries.

Toronto Street Art - This was the most entertaining.  We especially loved the 'no parking' fire breathing dragon and the audacity of the Mini parked in its space!

Toronto Street Art – This was the most entertaining. We especially loved the ‘no parking’ fire breathing dragon and the audacity of the Mini parked in its space!

The big headed man.  One of my favourites.  Note the blue and red eye, perhaps a trademark of the artist.

The big headed man. One of my favourites. Note the blue and red eye, perhaps a trademark of the artist.

No prizes for guessing what gets sold here.  How crazy is this design for Toronto's Big Fat Burrito!

No prizes for guessing what gets sold here. How crazy is this design for Toronto’s Big Fat Burrito!

Well done to Toronto. Their graffiti street art gave them the ‘wow’ factor, making it one of our favourite cities.

What are your thoughts about graffiti? Is it art or simply vandalism?

A beautiful ethereal face gazing back at us from this building wall. Toronto graffiti is not your usual run-of-the-mill scribbles!

A beautiful ethereal face gazing back at us from this building wall. Toronto graffiti is not your usual run-of-the-mill scribbles!

8 thoughts on “The Graffiti Street Art of Toronto, Canada

    • Man! We missed out on Graffiti Alley but all the more reason for a return trip to the wonderful city of Toronto and next time we’ll know exactly where to find it – thanks Kinga!

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  1. Graffiti is a big city thing, you don’t see much of it in small towns like where I live. If a railroad goes through town you see lots of graffiti, every other railcar has graffiti on it. Some of it is really good, some is just vandalism.

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    • Hi Larry – yeah we didn’t notice much graffiti in any of the small towns but the many cross-country trains were riddled with ‘art’ or plain vandalism!

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