New mural on Pape Avenue battles graffiti vandalism

The mural instilled on Friday beside the Canadian Greek Senior Club is a collaboration between StreetARToronto, Toronto Police 54 Division and local street artists.
The mural installed on Friday, Oct. 2, beside the Canadian Greek Senior Club on Pape Avenue is a collaboration between StreetARToronto, Toronto Police 54 Division and local street artists. (Kelsey Cheng///Toronto Observer)

The seniors of the Greek Canadian Senior Citizen Club can now rest their eyes on a colourful mural — instead of a vandalized wall.

The mural was installed on Oct. 2, completed by five artists in collaboration with Toronto Police 54 Division and StreetARToronto, a program run under the city’s Transportation Services department.

Graffiti Management Plan Project Manager Jodi Callan said the program aims recognize the contributions of street artists to Toronto neighbourhoods.

“We wanted to encourage street artists,” she said. “This is a proactive program that aims to support and develop street art, while counteracting graffiti vandalism.”

The project starts with StreetARToronto allocating a budget to 17 different Toronto police divisions. A graffiti liaison officer from each division will then identify a potential piece of vandalized wall for the street artists to design and paint.

Contemporary urban artist Angel Carrillo, 39, volunteered with four other local artists for five days on this particular mural project, at 864 Pape Ave. To Carrillo, this is more than just redecorating a vandalized wall.

“I wanted to promote graffiti art today in a more positive viewpoint,” Carrillo said. “To both the public and the young artists going into this art form.”

The mural is a piece of interactive artwork, allowing old and young viewers of the community to appreciate and own the mural. It captures a gigantic green monster mounting over a tower in a city of Cycladic houses. Waves of blue and green are seen crashing against the city.

“I wanted something related to the Greek culture, but not something harsh like Zeus, or some god,” Carrillo said. “I wanted something playful and animated.”

Gus Koutroubis visits the senior club every day, and he welcomed the new splash of colour.

“Looking at this wall over here, and looking at that wall; this wall is much, much better,” Koutroubis said, comparing the colours on the mural and the blank wall across from it.

Koutroubis said there are a lot of vandalized walls back home in Greece.

“Most I hate, and I get upset,” he said, “but this one here has meaning to the art, and I like it.”

Carrillo didn’t start out to be a street artist. Like most contemporary street artists, he also went through the graffiti vandalizing phase when he was a teenager.

“It’s a norm in the graffiti culture,” he said. “It’s a rebellious act, but temporary. Eventually you’re going to question yourself, ‘What I am really doing here?'”

It is a matter of time for the person to realize all the art projects that he/she could be involved in without getting into trouble with the law. Carrillo said this program is a great opportunity for street artists practicing this art form to demonstrate their skills to the public and show the city their work.

“Age catches up with you, and so does wisdom,” Carrillo said. “You’re going to think, ‘I’m risking myself and I’m not making any money out of this!'”