Published On: Sun, Oct 30th, 2022

How the City of Toronto Encourages Artistic Expression in Public Places

Toronto Arts Public Places

Everyone is welcome to come and look at the mural that was recently painted on the corner of your street because public art is free. It takes boring structures and breathes new life into them as a canvas by dressing them up.

We are fortunate to live in Toronto, which boasts a vibrant and varied public art culture, complete with spray-painted traffic signal boxes and graffiti-covered underpasses.

However, there is still more work to be done to ensure that all artists from different backgrounds are given the opportunity to exhibit their artistic skills. There is a political time bomb tucked away under one of our favourite murals.

Who among these people has earned the right to have their work symbolise our city? Should artists from underrepresented groups, who have historically been subjected to discrimination in the art industry, be given higher priority?

The selection of artwork to be displayed at art galleries such as the Art Gallery of Ontario is a laborious process that requires the expertise of art historians and curators.

The so-called gallery that is comprised of Toronto’s streets does not enjoy such a luxury and instead contracts out the labour of curation to a programme known as StART. The programme began in 2012 with the goal of lowering the amount of graffiti art while simultaneously showcasing local artists and compensating them for their work.

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When the city of Toronto announces a location for a project, artists are invited to submit designs for consideration by a committee from the City of Toronto StART department, which then chooses which artist’s design is the most appropriate for the project site.

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According to what is stated on the website for the StART initiative, the objective of the programme is to “transform underpasses with street and graffiti art.” Because of its identification with underprivileged groups, graffiti-style art has generally been barred from participation in official government art projects.

In addition, the traditional style of graffiti art has traditionally been dominated by men. It has been challenging for women to make their way into the field of street and graffiti painting.

It would appear that the StART programme is making an effort to change that. The Varsity had an interview with Lula Lumaj, an artist from Toronto who has worked on a variety of public art projects, ranging from concrete barriers to traffic signal boxes.

She stated that “In the graffiti arts, in general, there are fewer opportunities for women than there are for men.”

Lumaj emphasised that it is fair for the StART programme to hire minority artists who have not had many opportunities in the arts and many of whom have been “rejected over and over because of their colour, race, and gender.”

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With this information in mind, Lumaj stated that it is appropriate for the StART programme to hire minority artists.

Lumaj also brought up the fact that the City has a long way to go before it can adequately include artists from underrepresented groups.

It is necessary that folks who have been barred from artistic chances for such a long time be given boosts and encouragement in order for them to pursue their interests. This is done so that the artwork that we display is representative of the multifaceted nature of our city.