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Home / Arts / Here are Toronto’s Top 10 Graffiti Displays and where to find them!

Here are Toronto’s Top 10 Graffiti Displays and where to find them!

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Toronto street art scene takes centre stage

For well over a month, I’ve immersed myself in Toronto’s vibrant graffiti scene, exploring its most revered and dynamic sites. For those seeking to discover Toronto’s graffiti culture, I offer a curated list of the city’s top ten graffiti sites. From the iconic laneways of Graffiti Alley to the hidden gems of East Chinatown, each location promises an unforgettable journey through the world of urban expression. Whether you’re a seasoned art enthusiast or simply curious to explore a new dimension of creativity, Toronto’s graffiti scene is an experience not to be missed.

1. Rush Lane (Graffiti Alley)

Rush Lane, photography by Naomi Hiltz

Located just south of Queen West, better known as Graffiti Alley, Rush Lane is home to a massive swath of lively street art.

Graffiti Alley, officially named Rush Lane, emerged during the 1990s as a canvas for Toronto’s urban culture to flourish. Initially marked by unauthorized tags and graffiti, it embodied the rebellious spirit of street art. However, over time, a transformation took place, guided by local artists who turned the alley into a curated outdoor gallery, showcasing their talents and creativity. As the community and local businesses embraced the artistic vibrancy it brought, Graffiti Alley evolved. What was once simple graffiti grew into elaborate murals, reflecting a diverse array of styles and themes. This evolution paralleled a broader shift in the perception of street art, recognized not as mere vandalism but as a legitimate form of expression.

Rush Lane, photography by Naomi Hiltz

Acknowledging its cultural significance, the City of Toronto embraced Graffiti Alley, and its contribution to the city’s artistic landscape. Today, it stands as a celebrated landmark, drawing visitors from across the globe. Serving as a testament to Toronto’s dynamic culture, the alley remains a platform for both local and international artists to showcase their talents.

Rush Lane, photography by Naomi Hiltz

Continuously evolving, Graffiti Alley ensures a fresh visual experience for visitors as artists regularly update the artwork. It has woven itself into the very fabric of Toronto’s cultural identity, offering a unique and immersive journey for those who appreciate urban art and creativity.

Many local and international graffiti artists have left their mark in this iconic location. While it’s challenging to provide an exhaustive list due to the transient nature of graffiti, here are some artists whose work has been spotted in Toronto’s Graffiti Alley:

Birdo: Whimsical and colorful animal characters best describe his work. Birdo’s work can often be found in Graffiti Alley.

Poser: A Toronto-based artist noted for his intricate and detailed graffiti pieces, often accentuating portraits and characters.

Uber5000: Recognizable for his playful and cartoonish style, Uber5000’s murals often stress nostalgic imagery and whimsical scenes.

Mediah: A Toronto-born praised for his kinetic and dynamic graffiti pieces, often inspired by hip-hop culture and urban life.

Spudbomb: A prolific graffiti artist whose work often highlights bold lettering and vigorous colors.

Shalak Attack and Bruno Smoky: This artist duo is hailed for their colorful and culturally inspired murals, often addressing themes of social justice and environmentalism.

Ness Lee: A Toronto-based illustrator and muralist reknowned for her distinctive style, which often spotlights surreal and dreamlike imagery.

Jimmy Chiale: Acclaimed for his striking and colourful murals, Jimmy Chiale’s work often incorporates elements of pop culture and urban life.

Elicser Elliott: A Toronto-based artist known for his expressive and emotive graffiti characters, often depicting everyday people and scenes.

Kizmet: Touted for her intricate and detailed murals, Kizmet’s work often emphasizes geometric patterns and bold colors.

Jarus: Recognized for his photorealistic portraits, Jarus’ murals often feature detailed depictions of human faces and figures, capturing emotion and depth.

Nixo: A Toronto-based graffiti artist known for his dynamic and colourful lettering style, often incorporating elements of street culture and urban life.

Getso: Recognizable for his bold and stylized graffiti pieces, Getso’s work often gives prominence to intricate patterns and stirring colours.

MSKA: A Toronto-based artist celebrated for his dynamic and abstract graffiti pieces, often characterized by bold lines and geometric shapes.

Bacon: Admired for his unique and experimental approach to graffiti, Bacon’s work often pushes the boundaries of traditional street art techniques.

Shellie Zhang: A Toronto-based multidisciplinary artist known for her vibrant and thought-provoking installations and murals, often addressing themes of identity and belonging.

Lovebot: Recognizable for his iconic robot character, Lovebot’s murals often convey messages of love, kindness, and positivity.

Nick Sweetman: A Toronto-based artist often cited for his intricate and detailed nature-inspired murals, highlighting the beauty of the natural world.

Sight: Commended for his dynamic and colorful graffiti pieces, Sight’s work often emboldens bold lettering and abstract patterns.

Javid Jah: A Toronto-based artist applauded for his bustling and expressive graffiti pieces, often inspired by his Persian heritage and cultural influences.

These are just a few examples of the talented artists whose work can be found in Toronto’s Graffiti Alley. The nature of street art means that new pieces are constantly being created and old ones may be replaced, so the alley is always evolving.

Here are nine other fantastic spots to explore graffiti art in Toronto.

2. The Reclamation Wall

Rush Lane, photography by Naomi Hiltz

Situated along the Metrolinx rail corridor southwest of the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto, the Reclamation Wall stands as a monumental testament to the vibrancy and creativity of the city’s street art scene. This massive mural, touted as the largest single graffiti mural in Canada, stretches an impressive 300 meters in length. Completed in the recent past, this collaborative masterpiece brings together the talents of approximately 50 artists, each leaving their unique mark on the urban canvas.

Among the roster of artists who have contributed to The Reclamation Wall are some prominent names in Toronto’s graffiti and street art community. Here are a few notable contributors: KIZMIT, ANSER, CROPS, POSER and SPUD.

3. The Ossington Laneway

The Ossington Laneway Graffiti project is a overflowing showcase of street art located in the laneway adjacent to Ossington Avenue, a bustling thoroughfare in Toronto’s west end. This initiative aims to transform the urban environment into a dynamic outdoor gallery, bringing together local and international artists to contribute their talents to the community. The Ossington Laneway Graffiti project depicts a diverse range of artistic styles and themes, with murals and graffiti artworks adorning the walls of the laneway. From colourful abstract compositions to intricate portraits and thought-provoking messages, each piece adds to the visual tapestry of the space, creating an immersive and engaging experience for visitors.

Numerous artists have contributed their talents to the Ossington Laneway Graffiti project, showcasing the depth and diversity of Toronto’s street art scene. While it’s challenging to provide an exhaustive list of all the artists involved, here are a few notable contributors: Bird, Uber5000, MSKA, Poser, Shalak Attack, and Bruno Smoky.

4. Underpass Park

Underpass Park is a unique urban park located beneath the Eastern Avenue, Richmond, and Adelaide overpasses. It stands as a prime example of innovative urban design, transforming unused and neglected spaces beneath highway overpasses into humming community gathering spaces.

One of the most fantastic features of Underpass Park is its extensive collection of street art and graffiti murals, which adorn the concrete pillars and walls throughout the space. These artworks not only add visual interest to the park but also serve as a reflection of its diverse cultural landscape. Numerous artists have contributed their talents to the murals at Underpass Park, infusing the space with creativity, colour, and expression.

5. The Annex – Lee’s Palace


The Annex neighbourhood is home to an alternative cultural scene, and at its heart lies Lee’s Palace, a legendary music venue that has become a prime destination. Over the years, Lee’s Palace has played host to an impressive lineup of local and international bands, ranging from iconic acts like Nirvana to British rock sensations, Oasis. However, one of the most amazing aspects of the building is the massive mural that adorns its façade, created by the talented artist Alex “Al Runt” Currie. Stretching across two stories, Currie’s mural is a breathtaking display of colourful and cosmic imagery. The mural transports viewers into a fantastical realm inhabited by otherworldly beings and surreal landscapes.

Currie’s mural has become a defining landmark in The Annex, serving as a visual anchor that reflects the neighbourhood’s dynamic and eclectic spirit. Its larger-than-life presence adds a touch of whimsy and wonder to the streetscape, captivating passersby and drawing them into its enchanting world.

Beyond its aesthetic appeal, the mural also serves as a testament to the power of public art in transforming urban spaces and fostering a sense of community pride. By adorning the façade of Lee’s Palace, Currie’s masterpiece has become an integral part of The Annex’s cultural identity, resonating with residents and visitors alike as a symbol of creativity, expression, and artistic excellence.

6. Kensington Market

Kensington Market graffiti, photo by Naomi Hiltz

Renowned for its bohemian atmosphere, diverse cultural influences, and thriving street art scene, naturally Kensington Market also features some of the city’s. This eclectic neighbourhood is a melting pot of creativity, attracting artists, musicians, and free spirits from all walks of life. Throughout its narrow streets and alleyways, visitors can discover an array of colourful murals, graffiti artworks, and quirky installations that reflect the community’s dynamic and ever-evolving character.

One of the defining aspects of the street art in Kensington Market is its diversity and inclusivity. Artists from all backgrounds and artistic styles join to transform the neighbourhood’s walls into a living canvas, showing a wide range of themes, techniques, and messages. From bold and abstract graffiti pieces to intricate stencil artworks and politically charged murals, the street art in Kensington Market reflects the myriad voices and perspectives that make up the fabric of the community.

Many of the murals and graffiti artworks in Kensington Market are deeply rooted in social and cultural commentary. Artists use their work to address pressing issues such as gentrification, social justice, environmental sustainability, and community empowerment. These artworks serve as a form of public dialogue, sparking conversations and encouraging passersby to reflect on the world around them.

Kensington Market, photography by Naomi Hiltz

In addition to its political and social significance, street art in Kensington Market also celebrates the neighbourhood’s rich cultural heritage. Many murals pay homage to the area’s diverse immigrant communities, highlighting depictions of cultural icons, symbols, and traditions from around the world. These artworks serve as a reminder of Kensington Market’s role as a cultural hub where people from different backgrounds come together to share their stories and experiences.

7. The Keele Wall

Situated adjacent to the parking lot by Keele Station, The Keele Wall holds a special place in the hearts of TTC transit riders and the Toronto graffiti community alike. Over the years, this expansive canvas has provided a creative outlet for numerous local writers, becoming a focal point for artistic expression and community engagement.

The iconic wall has undergone several transformations, each iteration reflecting the evolving tastes and styles of Toronto’s graffiti scene. From its humble beginnings as a blank concrete surface, the Keele Wall has been brought to life again and again through its colors and intricate designs of talented artists.

What makes the Keele Wall particularly intriguing is its status as a dynamic and ever-changing space. Unlike traditional galleries, where artworks are static and permanent, the Keele Wall is subject to the whims of time and weather, with new pieces constantly emerging and old ones gradually fading away. This sense of impermanence adds an element of spontaneity and excitement to the experience of viewing the wall, as visitors never know what they might encounter on any given day.

Moreover, the Keele Wall serves as a testament to the power of public art in fostering community pride and connection. Through their contributions to the wall, local artists have not only beautified the urban landscape but also forged bonds with one another and with the residents who pass by daily. The wall has become a symbol of unity and collaboration, representing the collective creativity and spirit of Toronto’s graffiti community.

8. The East Side Mural – Scarborough

The East Side Mural stands as an iconic symbol of Toronto’s urban landscape, captivating the attention of thousands of travelers each day as they journey along the Scarborough RT. Nestled behind an old building, this monumental artwork commands attention with its bold, yellow letters spelling out the words “East Side.”

While the exact origins of the East Side Mural remain shrouded in mystery, it is widely attributed to the late 1980s and the legendary Graffiti Knights crew. This pioneering group of graffiti artists left an indelible mark on the city’s street art scene, and the East Side Mural stands as a testament to their creative vision and artistic legacy.

Despite time, the East Side Mural continues to captivate viewers with its bold and unmistakable presence. Its prominent location along the Scarborough RT route ensures that it is seen by countless commuters and travelers, becoming an enduring symbol of the city’s vibrant and dynamic spirit.

Beyond its visual impact, the East Side Mural holds cultural significance as a reflection of Toronto’s diverse and eclectic neighbourhoods. The words “East Side” evoke a sense of pride and identity among residents of the city’s eastern districts, serving as a rallying cry for community solidarity and resilience.

9. Around the World in East Chinatown

In the neighbourhood of Gerrard and Broadview, a remarkable initiative known as “Around the World in East Chinatown” has unfolded, bringing together diverse stakeholders to transform the urban landscape with stunning graffiti art. This collaborative project, spearheaded by a coalition of partners including the Toronto Police Service, the City of Toronto, StreetARToronto, Riverdale Collegiate Institute students, and local artists, has breathed new life into seven frequently tagged walls in the area.

Inspired by the wonders of the world, seven large-scale murals now grace the sides of buildings, offering a visual journey across continents and cultures. From the majestic Taj Mahal to the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu, and from the iconic Great Wall of China to other architectural marvels, these colorful artworks pay homage to humanity’s rich heritage and cultural diversity.

Beyond their aesthetic appeal, these murals serve a dual purpose: they discourage vandalism and graffiti tagging while simultaneously beautifying the East Chinatown buildings. By transforming blank walls into vibrant canvases, the project not only enhances the visual appeal of the neighborhood but also fosters a sense of pride and ownership among residents and business owners.

Moreover, the murals have become a draw for visitors and locals alike, attracting people to explore the Gerrard St. and Broadview Ave. area. The artworks serve as conversation starters and photo opportunities, sparking curiosity and engagement with the community’s cultural tapestry.

The success of “Around the World in East Chinatown” underscores the power of art as a catalyst for positive change and community revitalization. Through collaboration and creativity, this initiative has not only transformed physical spaces but also fostered connections and a sense of belonging among residents. As visitors wander through the streets of Gerrard and Broadview, they are greeted by a visual celebration of the world’s wonders, inviting them to embark on a journey of discovery right in the heart of East Chinatown.

10. NUNCA Mural

In 2009, Toronto was graced by the presence of the world-renowned Brazilian street artist known as NUNCA. As part of the 3rd Annual Manifesto Festival, NUNCA embarked on a transformative journey that would leave a mark on the city’s urban landscape. Setting his sights on the south side of 52 McCaul St., NUNCA embarked on an ambitious project to create an awe-inspiring mural that would captivate the imaginations of all who beheld it.

Hailing from São Paulo, NUNCA brought with him a rich artistic heritage and a unique perspective shaped by his experiences in the vibrant street art scene of Brazil. His reputation preceded him, as he had previously been featured at prestigious institutions such as London’s Tate Modern, cementing his status as a luminary in the world of contemporary art.

NUNCA’s mural in Toronto is a testament to his boundless creativity and his ability to transcend cultural boundaries with his art. At first glance, the mural presents a striking tableau—a naked man amidst a tumultuous sea, surrounded by a mesmerizing array of sea life, crashing waves, and human hands reaching out from the depths.

Yet, upon closer inspection, the mural reveals layers of symbolism and meaning, inviting viewers to contemplate the complex interplay between humanity and the natural world. NUNCA’s use of bold colours and intricate details adds depth and dimension to the artwork, creating a visual feast for the senses that sparks curiosity and wonder.

More than just a static piece of street art, NUNCA’s mural serves as a catalyst for dialogue and reflection, prompting viewers to ponder their own relationship to the environment and the interconnectedness of all living beings. It stands as a testament to the power of art to provoke thought, inspire change, and forge connections across cultures and continents.

As the years have passed, NUNCA’s mural at 52 McCaul St. has become a beloved landmark in the city, beloved by residents and visitors. It serves as a reminder of the transformative potential of street art to transcend borders and unite communities in a shared appreciation of beauty, creativity, and the human spirit.

Final Thoughts

Toronto’s graffiti landscape is nothing short of extraordinary, boasting a myriad of iconic sites that serve as showcases for the talents of its resident artists. From the colorful murals of Kensington Market to the sprawling masterpieces of Graffiti Alley, each location offers a glimpse into the rich tapestry of urban expression that defines the city’s cultural identity.

As I navigated through Toronto’s graffiti-laden streets, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to classic slides from art history. Just as the Mona Lisa captivates viewers with her enigmatic smile, so too do the intricate compositions of artists like Banksy and Shepard Fairey provoke introspection and contemplation. And just as Michelangelo’s David stands as a pinnacle of Renaissance sculpture, so too do the towering murals of Phlegm and ROA command attention and admiration.

Indeed, Toronto’s graffiti scene is a testament to the power of art to transcend boundaries and ignite the imagination. Each spray-painted wall, each meticulously crafted stencil, tells a story—a narrative of urban life, social commentary, and cultural identity. It is a living, breathing testament to the creativity and ingenuity of its creators, who transform mundane cityscapes into vibrant works of art.

In the ever-evolving landscape of Toronto’s dynamic graffiti scene, art serves not only as a form of expression but also as a catalyst for social change and cultural dialogue. As the city continues to grow and evolve, so too does its graffiti, reflecting the shifting currents of political and ideological discourse. Today, more than ever, artists have the power to intervene in the political and ideological theater of our times, using their creations to challenge norms, provoke thought, and inspire action. In an age where communication has become increasingly digital and fragmented, graffiti remains a tangible and visceral form of expression, bridging the gap between artist and audience in a way that transcends distance and language. Just as the masterpieces of Da Vinci and Michelangelo have stood the test of time, so too will the perplexing and thought-provoking graffiti artworks that adorn our city’s streets, serving as enduring symbols of creativity, resilience, and the human spirit.

by Myles Shane

Photography by Naomi Hiltz

Other articles from totimes.ca – otttimes.ca – mtltimes.ca



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