Street Art of Toronto

by Brenna Holeman

Toronto Graffiti 5


Toronto Graffiti 7

I am off to Berlin in two days for a few reasons: to spend time with friends, to check out the Berlin Festival, to revel in being in one of my favourite European cities again. One thing I’ll always associate with Berlin is its street art, just as I’ll always think of Melbourne, Valparaiso, London, New York, and Toronto, to name a few.

Toronto Graffiti

I lived in Toronto for about seven months total over the span of two years, and I remember walking down Queen West or around Kensington Market, spotting the best of the city’s street art. It spawned a love of the art form, and since then I’ve collected photos of it from all over the world. Truth be told, however, I don’t know that much about it, though I’m certain that I think it can be an extremely powerful method of expression, creativity, and of displaying political and social views. It certainly has become more and more popular over the past few decades, with famous artists like Banksy even being nominated for Academy Awards. I often grapple with my stance on street art, though: how far can we take it? Is it right to deface private property, or historical buildings? What is the difference between street art and graffiti? A beautiful mural depicting social change versus a random tag on a random brick wall – how do we approve one, but disregard the other? The line seems to be drawn somewhere between construction and destruction; the work must take on some form of cultural significance, or, well, at least just look good.

Toronto Graffiti 8


Toronto Graffiti 6

A great example of the city’s property owners and artists coming together is the Capra Building in Toronto pictured above. Painted by Uber 5000, one of the most prolific (and my favourite) artist in Toronto, I absolutely love its design, whimsicality, colour, and awe-inspiring display of talent. In this case, the property owners have done a very smart thing; their building stands out, and they have chosen exactly what they wanted painted on their walls. They didn’t just wake up and see something they may or may not like or want.

Toronto Graffiti 3

I’m still not sure where we draw the line between the forms that graffiti take, or how we can ever agree on an objective beauty or appreciation for art. All I know is that I love when I see something that makes me stop and think, that enhances the city, that, even in its impermanent form, can leave a lasting impression.


Toronto Graffiti 2

Toronto Graffiti 4

*I was fortunate enough to take a tour of Toronto’s street art with Jason of Tour Guys. I went as part of a group during TBEX Toronto and I highly recommend the tour.

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Alyssa September 3, 2013 - 2:09 am

These are some really elaborate pieces! I always wonder how long they take…

When I was in London, I did an Alternative Walking Tour around Brick Lane and Shoreditch. We actually saw an artist working (vandalizing?) – in the daytime. Pretty badass. It’s PWYC and I highly recommend it!

Anyhow. Toronto. I like the ‘I miss…’ piece. I think about those things all the time – and that’s the sort of art I like – art that makes me reflect, challenges my views or that I can relate to. It’s not always aesthetically pleasing, but totally engaging.

Have fun in Berlin!

Yours in Travel,


Brenna September 3, 2013 - 5:33 pm

Cool, I will have to do that tour! I’m moving into a flat nearby so I’m sure to see lots of great street art.

I also loved the “I miss…” piece (mostly because I truly do miss Sleater Kinney). You’re right, art that makes me reflect or challenges me is the very best kind. We will have to do lots of arty things in London together!

leda November 25, 2015 - 2:18 am

I just saw a Banskey on my streetcar ride this morning! It was on a public street sign! Just a rat standing under the sign that reads no standing! I know his work but it was so appropriate for the hood! Toronto i’m sure has many other hidden Banskey’s! I will go back when its daylight and take pics!

Ruth September 5, 2013 - 12:16 am

I did a similar tour around Brick Lane; it’s really good and the guy taking our tour had some interesting thoughts about graffiti vs street art. He was particularly passionate as he was a street artist himself. My brother also does tours around Barcelona and he took me on an alternative tour there as well and it was interesting to see how distinctive some of the artists styles are – seeing work that was clearly done by the same people.

It’s always a shame when the council paints over decent murals etc with the drab grey paint. It’s always nicer to walk past brightly decorated buildings than ugly dull grey ones!

Brenna September 6, 2013 - 2:16 pm

Absolutely! I really need to do a tour of Brick Lane. I just finished an alternative tour of Berlin that included some street art and it was amazing. I always love finding out the history of everything and how it relates to the city.

Helen September 10, 2013 - 7:08 pm

Love these pics Brenna! I get so excited when I walk around a corner and come across an unexpected piece of art right there for everyone to enjoy!

Love the underwater scene the most!

Hope you are having fun in Berlin and enjoying London life! 🙂

Brenna September 11, 2013 - 4:23 pm

Thanks for your comment, Helen! I love the underwater scene, too, it’s by Uber5000.

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