For anyone reading this title who loves hockey (and being Canadian, who doesn’t?), you might think this post is about getting in a fight. Especially with the back alley photo, right? You couldn’t be more wrong. 

It’s about art.

It was a particularly frigid day in Toronto (I’m talking cold), when I was on my way to a meeting and decided to take a shortcut through an alley between Queen and Richmond streets. (This being Toronto the Good, this is not as dangerous as it sounds for a woman on her own).

That’s when, despite the freezing temperatures, I found a reason to take my gloves off – not to fight, but to snap a few pictures.

I had always known there were some pretty impressively decorated alleyways in my city (if for no other reason than the Rick Mercer Report ‘Rant’ likes to use these as a backdrop) but I had never really known exactly where this particular one was, until I stumbled on it by accident.

And I have to say, whether you view this as free expression, street art or very creative vandalism, I was impressed enough by the creativity, the riot of colour, and the talent involved in some cases, to risk freezing my fingers to capture these images. Raw, unscripted, with no apparent plan or organization, they all seemed to work together despite the lack of any shared vision or collaboration.

On the other side of the tracks (or in this case, the city), you can find another example of street art, but this time, the politically-sanctioned, officially approved type, known as the ‘Village of Murals’ in Islington. The first time I saw them I didn’t realize how many there were, until I discovered them popping up for kilometres on Dundas Street west of Islington. Driving along the street, building after building hosted an oversized tableau  of people, places and stories tied to the area.

Historic, nostalgic, sometimes charming and whimsical, their creators present a completely different style of street decoration, but like their downtown cousins, also using bricks and buildings as the canvas.

So, who or what decides what constitutes art in this case? A permit, popular opinion, or simply personal taste?

I’m not going near that fight!

(I think I’ll just share a few pictures and let the debate rage on elsewhere!)

TIP: If you’re looking to explore Toronto’s urban street art, take a walk through the small laneways in and around Queen and Richmond Streets, between Bathurst and Spadina. Islington’s Murals start at Islington and Dundas, from where you can either walk or drive west. See the map here. 

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