Art as a laneway revitalization strategy

Some of the city’s best graffiti can be found in the back alleyways of Toronto. Laneways are the perfect canvas for street art. They provide artists with special, hidden places, where they can express themselves surreptitiously and make their mark on the City.   

At the same time, graffiti in laneways, can work to beautify our neighbouhoods, reduce vandalism, improve safety, engage youth and transform our back alleys into urban art galleries.

A handful of Toronto residents have been doing just that.

Cross Fit Graffiti Art Program

The Cross Fit Graffiti Art Program is housed in Academy of Lions, an Ossington Avenue gym that backs onto a laneway.  Funded by ProAction Corps and Kids, the program hosts workshops that combine graffiti history lessons and mural creation with CrossFit sessions, while also bringing together police and youth who create these murals. Using property that borders the laneway behind Academy of Lions (and is consented to by its residents), the idea is to encourage teens to create graffiti art in a legal environment.

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Kenwood Laneway Art Initiative

The Kenwood Laneway Art Initiative began out of the frustrations of graffiti removal felt by two Kenwood Avenue neighbours, Elly Dowson and Christine Liber. Instead of trying to remove the graffiti on their garages, Elly and Christine handed out flyers to residents between Kenwood Avenue and Wychwood Avenue offering to paint over tagged garages with art. Elly and Christine used a collective of approaches ranging from stencils drawing inspiration from artists like Mark Rothko and Keith Harring, to creating original pieces. In 21 days, the Kenwood/Wychwood laneway was transformed, welcoming more foot and bicycle traffic and uniting its community.

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In addition to painting the garages, residents have discreetly added small canvases throughout the lane. And lately, according to Kenwood residents, people have been are adding small things in the lane, like sculptures and plants.  

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Initiatives like Kenwood Lane Art and CrossFit Graffitti promote and embrace street art in laneways, rallying residents and volunteers who dedicate their time to creating vibrant, colorful and lively spaces.

Are there other laneway art projects we should know about?  Send us an email info@thelanewayproject.ca or tag us in your Instagram photos @lanewayproject. 

Written by: Zeina Zureikat