The images above show some of the wall art for which Harbord Village is noted. But we also have lots of tagging that defaces laneways, garages, and public spaces. HVRA Newsletter stories from Spring 2005, Spring 2010, Fall, 2012, and Spring 2013 document ongoing efforts to clean up vandalism tagging. In Spring 2013 Sylvia Porretta and Stephen Simpson won HVRA Community Builder Awards for their efforts in painting out that kind of graffiti in Sussex Mews laneway and along Harbord Street.
In late summer 2017, a team of artists painted colourful murals on garage doors along David French and Barbara Barrett lanes. This neighbourhood beautification project was sponsored by Tranzac and Street ART Toronto, along with the Toronto Parking Authority, Wiener’s Home Hardware, and homeowners on Brunswick and Borden Avenues. The artists brought their creative skill and spirit to murals commemorating the spirit of the community. It’s worth the walk to see their art. (Photos below by Regine Schmid. Use the arrows for a slide show.)
The efforts to clean up vandalism tagging remain ongoing because graffiti tags keep reappearing. Here is an account from 2009 of a successful initiative to combat them. The effects of this project didn’t last forever, but they encouraged others to keep trying. The invitation is still open.
Some years ago, Croft Street resident Michael Heydon did something remarkable. He organized a partnership between local volunteers, Toronto Police 14 Division and Crime Stoppers, community mural artists, and residents whose properties border on Croft. He did so with the able assistance of Scott Mills, who is probably the best community-minded police officer in Toronto. Scott solicited donated paint and the manpower of dozens of volunteers. The result was a wholesale attack on vandalism graffiti on Croft Street, adding numerous murals, and transforming a scarred alley into a welcoming urban path adorned with public art.
Michael and Scott repeated this effort on Croft Street several more times, adding murals and painting over new occurrences of vandalism graffiti. While repeat vandalism graffiti is down by about 90%, it does accumulate over time, and regular intervention continues to be needed.
Today, the HVRA is trying to apply the principle of vandalism graffiti remediation beyond Croft Street into the four dozen alleys within its borders. The principle is very simple: we try to paint over vandalism tags because we have discovered that vandalism graffiti is like litter – if there is one piece on the ground, more soon joins it. If litter is picked up promptly however, very little re-appears.
The biggest challenge, however, is convincing residents that they should paint over vandalism graffiti themselves when it occurs on their garages. If you have vandalism graffiti on your property it is probably because one or more of your neighbours didn’t bother to remove theirs. In fact, there is a City by-law that requires property owners to remove graffiti or face a fine. But we’d rather help the community clean this up rather than seeing our neighbours fined.
In 2009 we tried something new: instead of fully repainting garage doors, we are covering just the tags with a neat rectangle of oil primer – sending a cost-effective message that vandalism isn’t wanted in the HVRA, and preparing the surface for repainting by the owner.
On an annual basis, volunteer labour and donated paint will be applied to alleys in the neighbourhood. But we can’t keep up with the hundreds of garages in the HVRA!! You can help by remembering that vandalism graffiti is like litter: remove it from your property and urge your neighbours to do the same. You can also help by volunteering or making a donation to buy oil primer so that together we can keep the neighbourhood beautiful and encourage respect for property.