green living tips

From Vandalism to Street Art; Graffiti helps Uplift Toronto Neighborhoods

Graffiti started life as a protest, as a beautiful riot against the concrete jungle and the fences that environmentisolated the poor from the rich. The midnight prophets of the subways and back alleys have long thumbed their noses at authority, splashing their imagery across trains and bridges and walls. So profoundly have they influenced our lives and touched the souls of our cities, that we have come to revere their visual poetry. And graffiti, for better or for worse, has become a beloved art form transforming the dull grey denizens of our city into exquisite canvases.

Toronto’s innovative Public Art Through Construction Hoarding (PATCH) has some pretty interesting ideas on how to harness street art to give dilapidated neighborhoods a new lease on life. PATCH is a program run by the not-for-profit STEPS initiative. Their amazing ‘out-of-the-box’ solution is to encourage local youths to work with talented Toronto Street Artists.

Together, they conduct surveys to ask local residents about their favorite memories of the neighborhood which they then transpose to giant murals on walls, buildings and construction sites. Residents see their memories come to life, the area gets a much-needed makeover and local youths learn to paint while taking lessons from some of the city’s finest street artists. It’s an inspired and ingenious win for everyone.

toronto green livingI went to visit the latest STEPS project which is a 50 ft x 6 ft wall of art that will surround the building site of a downtown Tridel Condo development. PATCH projects manager Vera Belazelkoska: “So far we have had over 50 youths participate in some shape and form: from surveying their neighbors, to ideating, to painting. They range from ages 7-17. We have also had some adults help out too!”

“PATCH uses art to challenge and change the way in which public spaces are currently being used, how citizens communicate on environmental issues, and the role of the artist in community development. We provide free arts programming in underserved neighborhoods of Toronto, and have installed some pretty impressive pieces across the city, such as the Fence Art project in Thorncliffe Park and the Tallest Mural in the World in St. James Town.”

Street artists Danilo M. McCallum and Javid Jah are on point for this project and enjoy leading the creative input while guiding and teaching the younger team members. Jah: “We live in a city with some of the finest street artists in the world. While the genre is gaining traction, it’s still not given the status of a valid art form the way it is in other countries.”

The biggest problem facing the STEPS project is continued funding. Their continued contribution to inner-city youth as well as the upliftment of low income neighborhoods requires constant funding and city cutbacks threaten the future of the program.

You can help by funding social projects and supporting local artists.

Enjoy the blog? Need good karma? Now you can get all our blog updates and more good karma than you can poke a sharp stick at… Just ‘like’ us on Facebook! Click here.


Nikki is an author and writer specializing in green living ideas and tips, adventure travel, upcycling, and all things eco-friendly. She's traveled the globe, swum with sharks and been bitten by a lion (fact). She lives in a tiny town with a fat cat and a very bad dog.

Check out our Books!

3 thoughts on “From Vandalism to Street Art; Graffiti helps Uplift Toronto Neighborhoods

Comments are closed.