Chalk artists want Toronto to step up to their medium

Local chalk artists want Torontonians to be in-step with their art. Victor Fraser and Dave ‘Chalkmaster’ Johnston have been creating sidewalk-chalk art for 30 years combined. They feel their preferred art form could play a big role in making Toronto a better-looking city.

“It’s a positive manipulation of a genuinely disregarded medium,” Fraser said. “It gets rid of the cigarette butts, the gum and all the other crap on Toronto sidewalks and gives you something nice to look at.”

Fraser began his chalk-art career in 1989 at Yonge and Dundas Square, while Johnston’s started at Yonge and Bloor streets in 1994. They said that there has been an influx of sidewalk artists over the last couple years and that this would be the time to use the medium both beautify and promote Toronto.

Focus on longer-lasting pieces

“I think the city’s got to talk with some small people with big ideas,” Fraser said.

“We could set some boundaries so that it’s not just graffiti. That way it’s something a little more prestigious and holds a little more weight.”

Rebecca Ward, cultural affairs officer for Toronto Public Art Culture Division, says the city is trying to work with more temporary art mediums, but the focus is on longer lasting pieces.“

The reason that we wouldn’t work with sidewalk artists in the public art program is that chalk art isn’t permanent,” Ward said.

Fraser acknowledges that chalk art does not last forever, but he said that is the best thing about it because nothing in life is permanent.

“If someone can walk up to a piece and experience it, they can take it with them as resonation of the memory for the rest of their life,” he said.

Positive responses

“Some people say that you don’t remember what something looks like, but rather, how you felt when you saw it.”

Fraser and Johnston have already done pieces that promote the city and its services. Fraser has even drawn outside of local fire halls and police stations.

Johnston remembers one he did to promote Toronto Police Services.“I just wrote this huge spiel on the sidewalk about how the cops here are great and it got a very positive response,” Johnston said.

“It would be neat to have City Hall backing that kind of thing because you could do something even more (impactful).”