HOW-TO GUIDE: ADD A LANEWAY MURAL

Laneways are the perfect canvas for all kinds of public art.  The addition of a mural can draw attention to your laneway and catalyze its transformation from dark, dirty, and vandalized into a welcoming public space that provides a bright and attractive destination and thoroughfare for local residents, workers and visitors. 

Why Add Art to Your Laneway? 

• Acts as a free, accessible public art gallery that can be enjoyed by all;
• Functions as a tool for both beautification and economic development - beautiful and vibrant public spaces draw people into a community, and those people then shop and eat at local businesses, boosting the community’s economic activity;
• Prevents illegal activity through increased use of the spaces and “eyes on the street”;
• Prevents unwanted graffiti by deterring tagging; and
• Strengthens community engagement by creating connections between business owners, residents, BIAs, community groups, and local artists.

Step-by-Step Guide

There are a range of techniques and activities that can work in Toronto’s laneways. Read our complete Laneway Mural Guide for more details on steps, contacts, online resources, planning requirements, and funding tips that you can use to add art to your laneway. Our free guide helps you through the process of adding a mural to your laneway, including developing a plan and a budget, finding partners and securing funding. It also includes a list of contacts and resources to get you started.

 

step one: Idea, Location & Sketch

To get started, you should meet with interested neighbours and organizations to talk about the mural project and its goals. For example, is addition of a laneway mural intended to increase the safety by drawing more “eyes on the street”? Beautify the space? Celebrate something or someone of importance to the neighbourhood? Or perhaps there is a combination of goals? The aims of the laneway mural project will help to set the desired content and style of the mural.

At the same time as working on the mural theme, you should think about the best location for the laneway mural. This may be in an area that sees high usage, on a wall that is highly visible at an entry point to the neighbourhood, or in an area that is currently underused and could do with a boost. 

If the structure is City owned, contact StreetARToronto, or StART, to help with the consent and public consultation processes. 

Step two: Speak to the Neighbours

Before you finalize the proposed location for the mural, you should consult with residents and business owners in the immediate area to address any concerns they may have with the proposed content and theme. 

Step three: Contact your Councillor

In addition to consulting with neighbours and business owners, it would be proactive to consult with your local Councillor. The Councillor's office should be made aware of the proposed project; they can also provide you with useful information and resources. 

Step four: Connect with the Relevant City Divisions

Depending on the scope and location of the project, you may need to obtain permits from the City of Toronto’s Transportation Services Division.   For example, if the laneway is publicly owned and you need to erect scaffolding as part of the painting process, you will need a Street Occupation Permit to allow you to place ladders, scaffolding or other equipment and materials in the laneway while painting the mural. Permit processing generally takes a couple of weeks, but it’s a good idea to submit your application well in advance to be sure that you’re able to implement the mural in good time. See our complete Laneway Mural Guide for more tips like how to find the right permits and partnering with your local BIA for insurance liabilities.

Step five: Develop a Sketch, Project Plan & Budget

Once you’ve done your initial consultations it’s a good idea to start working with a mural artist to develop a sketch of what your laneway mural will look like. Check out StART's Artist Directory or the PATCH Project’s artist list

You should also develop a project plan, which identifies the process and timeline required for the successful completion of your mural project. StART has provided an extremely helpful budgeting tool (See page 9 of our Laneway Mural Guide), which provides a recommended budget breakdown that accounts for all costs from artist fees to maintenance fees. You can use this tool to break down costs once you have determined a base project budget. 

Step six: Arrange Funding

Funding is essential to the successful implementation of a laneway mural. Numerous funding mechanisms are available for communities looking to raise money for mural projects, ranging from grants to crowd-funding, in-kind sponsorship and more. See Section 4 of our Laneway Mural Guide for more tips on funding mechanisms.

Step seven: Obtain Approvals & Waivers

Once you have the required funding in place, you can begin to obtain the required approvals for your mural project, including written consent from the property owner of the mural site. You should also obtain waivers signed by all participants in painting the mural.

Step eight: Implement the Plan

Now that the project is planned, funded and approved, you can begin to create your mural vision by obtaining your materials, preparing the wall and painting the mural - and perhaps holding a community celebration to unveil the piece once it’s complete!  Local paint stores or home hardware shops often give discounts for community projects.  Don't be afraid to ask! 

Step eight: Maintain your Mural

It’s very important that you develop a maintenance plan to keep the mural beautiful after installation. Proper mural maintenance will help to protect the mural from exposure to the elements and other things that could impact its lifespan, like tagging. 

Your maintenance plan should include regular mural inspections, maintenance activities for both the mural and site, and who to contact when more major repairs are required.

 

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