Toronto neighbours turn their laneway into a garage-door art-gallery

A pair of Toronto neighbours, Elly Dowson and Christine Liber, set out to cover the coach-house doors in their laneway with awesome murals. This was in the context of an edict from Toronto's dipshit mayor, Rob Ford, who has instituted fines for property owners who don't remove graffiti from their premises. Dowson and Liber figured taggers would be less likely to go after murals, and that their project would also beautify their neighbourhood.

Elly and Christine delivered flyers along their street – they offered to paint resident’s garages with art. The service was offered free of charge, and the paint was generously donated by Maple Paints on St. Clair Avenue West. Responding to the flyer, residents who share the laneway between Kenwood Avenue and Wychwood Avenue began to grant permission to have their garages turned into ‘urban art’. Elly and Christine got to work.

Some of the art was created through stencils, some of the paintings were inspired by artists like Miro, Keith Haring and Mark Rothko, and some were original creations. Soon, the ‘urban art’ initiative started to gain momentum – with good weather on their side, Elly and Christine painted 21 garages in 21 days. Some of the residents had a ton of graffiti, and some had none at all – but everyone agreed that the art might be a great way to minimize future graffiti.

The Kenwood/Wychwood laneway has become a living art gallery. The new art quickly became a destination within the neighbourhood – there was a noticeable increase in foot and bicycle traffic, making for a safer laneway. The initiative not only galvanized the street, but the laneway became a source of pride and has helped build a sense of community.

Elly was once my babysitter -- this is so cool.

The Kenwood Lane Art Initiative: 21 Garages in 21 Days

Flickr slideshow

(via Torontoist, thanks Mom!)



  1. This project is really cool! I would love to live on a street like that. But I would also like to point out that sometimes (though not in the pre-painting examples given in the gallery) graffiti is art, too. So the sentence, “fighitng graffiti with art” on the page sounds a little strange. Otherwise, great beautifying project (: Kudos to the two ladies.

  2. This may discourage Graffiti, but nothing can discourage Graffiti’s bastard cousin, Tagging. Graffiti turns the streets into a gallery.  Tagging turns the streets into a Memorandum of Understanding.

    1. I’m pretty sure this will more effectively dissuade “taggers” (i.e., territorial kids who make ugly urban settings even uglier because shit is all fucked up and bullshit) than it will anyone who thinks of him or herself as a “graffiti artist.”

  3. Cool, that’s my neighbourhood! I walk down there every other day. Good place to smoke weed. I had no idea there was any organization behind the artworks. It ties in well with Wychwood Barns, an art gallery/public garden/community centre right across the street.

    I’ve been astounded by some of the art that appears in Toronto’s alleys and laneways since I moved here a few years ago. If you can’t afford the AGO, just get a bike and cruise around a bit!

  4. very nice. sadly, people in L.A. have received compliance orders for unpermitted murals when they were trying to do the same thing.

    1. And this is why America is great.  Try to make a plain thing beautiful and the city decides its a nuisance and then fine the good people.  Having a hard time remembering what is Great about America, besides the people…. Anybody?

    2.  It’s happened in Toronto as well. The city has gone and painted over murals it comissioned itself in the name of fighting rampant art.

  5. I can’t remember exactly where it was, But I remember seeing something similar in Chinatown, just off Dundas st.  A restaurant had  converted the alley next to them into a mural that covered both walls and the street, turning them into a giant river scene. Immersive art indeed. Worked to keep the taggers away and the gawking tourists also discouraged the other traditional alleyway pastime.

  6. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen those exact murals or very similar style in rec rooms in the 70’s. 

  7. I really like the pictures and the people who made them possible.

    This is beautiful and should be continued and replicated all over the world.  My first thought was to start an initiative in my area but my second thought was that I would be fined and jailed.   

  8. Arguably, the “dipshit mayor’s” fines have caused the residents to care enough to beautify their lane; in other words, the policy worked.  :)

    Okay, now that I’m done playing devil’s advocate.. I need to convince some Seattle residents who live on a Greenway to do something like this!

    1.  A more direct method would be to subsidise paint supplies for artists who beautify the city like this, and hold a competition for the best art. So rather than spending city money in a negative way, spend it in a positive way, thus boosting your actual street cred and re-election chances.

  9. That’s what the graffiti  looks like round where I live (Stokes Croft in Bristol).
    Also, taggers should be chained to a wall until they learn to paint.

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