The artists behind the walls

by March 10, 2011

A spread from "Toronto Graffiti: The Human Behind the Wall"

Guest post by Kristen Marano

The question of whether graffiti is art has been a longstanding debate in cities around the world. More recently, the battle is being fought in Toronto among artists, business owners, and the city. As part of new mayor Rob Ford’s pledge to clean up the city, business improvement areas, storefronts, subways, and even revitalization projects such as Toronto’s Evergreen Brick Works, are being ordered to remove graffiti by spring 2011.

The City’s graffiti bylaw, enacted in 2005 under the previous mayor David Miller and being vigorously implemented by the current mayor, attempts to draw a line between art and graffiti. The bylaw defines mural art as “a mural for a designated surface and location that has been deliberately implemented for the purpose of beautifying the specific location.” Therefore, the City will only tolerate graffiti that has been intentionally commissioned, while uncommissioned “letters, symbols, etching, scratches, inscriptions, stains, or other markings will have to go.

Against this backdrop, a new book and collaborative project, Toronto Graffiti: The Human Behind the Wall, launched on January 28th with the aim of showcasing Toronto street art. The nearly 500-page collection of images and artist interviews was compiled over ten years of cycling, walking, and photographing by graphic designer Yvette Farkas, a Torontonian who moved to the city from Budapest, Hungary. As the City pushes forward with its removal plan, the book may play an integral role in keeping Toronto’s graffiti art alive.

Check out the humans behind the wall and their work here.

Kristen Marano is a public relations professional living in Toronto. Her writing focuses on art and culture, international development, and music. Kristen can be reached at

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