The mural on Helen Aspiotis' nail salon business on Kingston Rd. can be seen from blocks away. City Hall will decide whether the piece is graffiti art or vandalism on Nov. 30.

Scarborough storeowner asks city to regularize graffiti

Painting graffiti in a different light

Helen Aspiotis used to have frequent problems with vandals who would climb to the roof of her business on Kingston Road and paint the exterior wall.

“When my husband was alive, he was up there three, four times a summer cleaning up graffiti and before we knew it, it was a mess again,” she said, adding her husband died three years ago.

Aspiotis now runs the nails and beauty salon on her own, but her problem with graffiti has stopped.

“After he passed away, these kids came by and asked if they could put something up there and I told them as long as it’s not ridiculous, they could go ahead,” she said.

On the roof of the store is now a mural of a young man’s face surrounded by oversized, bright roses painted in shades of deep purple.

“Since they did it two years ago, not once did anyone go up there,” she said. “So it saved my life.” She explained that to get up on the roof to clean up graffiti is very dangerous.

Graffiti panel’s decision: art or vandalism

  • Graffiti at 895 Queen St. W.: regularized
  • Graffiti at 899 College St.: regularized
  • Graffiti at 7 Vanauley St.: regularized
  • Graffiti at 155 Augusta Ave.: deferred
  • Graffiti at 231 Queen St. W.: deferred
  • Graffiti at 526 Dundas St. W.: deferred
  • Graffiti at 934 Bloor St. W.: regularized
  • Graffiti at 947 Kingston Rd.: deferred
  • Graffiti at 1255 Queen St. W.: deferred

To get up on the roof, Aspiotis would have to climb the stairs to the back upper patio and then jump to the next building.

“I was worried they [vandals] would kill themselves jumping [from the patio to the roof]; and we would be responsible,” Aspiotis said.

Earlier this year, she got the removal notice from the city and like eight other store owners from across Toronto, Aspiotis requested for the mural to be regularized.

As a result of the requests, the graffiti panel held a meeting at City Hall last week to decide what would be done with the graffiti.

The graffiti panel is an administrative committee made up of

City Hall terminology

Graffiti art: The markings made to the building are approved by the property owner and beautify the building and general surroundings, keeping in consideration the community’s character.

Art mural: A commissioned piece or a piece approved by the property owner or occupant before it was painted. The purpose of the mural is to beautify the building and general surroundings.

Graffiti vandalism: Any graffiti that is not currently regularized by the graffiti panel and was done without permission of the property owner. It is also vandalism if it is considered a tag by the graffiti panel, if it could incite hatred or violence against any person or group, or if it contains offensive language.

Tag: Stylized symbol or logo

five city staffers that reviews and makes decisions, on request, to exempt art murals and graffiti art from being removed.

Jason Kucherawy is the co-owner of Tour Guys, a company that gives walking tours of the city, including a graffiti walking tour. He says graffiti is more than what you see and that there’s a whole subculture to it.

“In the world of graffiti it’s all the same, [what gets classified as art] is just a fancier version of the same stuff,” Kucherawy said. “It’s always the artist’s name.“That’s what graffiti is. It’s an assertion of the self. It’s putting your name, the symbol of you, in public, on public space.”

Out of the nine graffiti pieces discussed at City Hall in October, four were approved as graffiti art and allowed to stay up. The remaining art, including the piece on Aspiotis’ store, were deferred until the Nov. 30 meeting.