Take a local laneway in need of some love, add an enthusiastic group of Girl Guides in search of a major community service project and a city with a fabulous street art program, and what do you get? A very cool laneway painting project and some lovely new artwork for the community to enjoy!
As part of the Girl Guide program, the 4th Toronto Rangers (girls in grades 10-12) needed to complete a community service project to earn their Chief Commissioner’s Gold Award. After two years of talking over ideas, they decided to take on the graffiti-covered garage doors of Frank Kovac Lane, behind their meeting location.
But where to begin? Councillor Mike Layton‘s office arranged an introduction to Jodi Callan, Project Manager for the City of Toronto’s Graffiti Management Plan (and herself once a Girl Guide!). She, in turn, introduced the Rangers to the StreetARToronto program, an initiative designed to eliminate graffiti vandalism (think tagging), while adding vibrancy and visual interest to city streets. With Jodi’s guidance, the Rangers approached the home owners on the west side of Frank Kovac Lane for written permission to transform their graffiti-covered garage doors into works of art based on an urban wildlife theme. Jodi also connected the group with PC Galamiyeva, the Graffiti Liaison Office at Toronto Police 14 Division for logistical and painting support.
One of the Rangers, Henriette de Vries, a senior student at the Etobicoke School of the Arts, created preliminary designs that were included with the letter to homeowners. It’s one thing to create designs, but how do you reproduce those designs in size large on garage doors? And how do you know how much paint you’ll need to execute the project in living colour? Enter multidisciplinary artist Nick Sweetman, another connection provided by Jodi through the StreetARToronto program.
Nick helped Henriette scale up her designs, choose paints and was her mentor as she managed the project, including the supervision of many volunteer painters! As part of the project, Nick also created his own mural on the side wall of Guan’s Auto Service, at the top of the laneway.
One sunny week in April of 2016, the whole plan became reality. And more partners came on board too. Members of the Rotary Club of Toronto Sunrise came to paint and provided a BBQ lunch. Snap’d College came to cover the event and their photographer, Morgan Bocknek, captured some great moments. Friends, family, and police officers all took paint brushes in hand!
In addition to the garage doors painted by the Rangers, Nick Sweetman transformed the brick wall of Guan’s Auto Service into a stunning mural featuring two black bears and the artist’s signature bees. The mural can be seen as you drive west along Harbord Street. Just watch for people stopping to take photos!
It is amazing what cool things can be done when people see a need and work together to create something beautiful. Everyone involved in the laneway painting project had such fun working together, and it is hope that the results will be enjoyed for many years to come.
Postscript – July 2018: Since the completion of the project, one mural has been damaged by vandalism which is not cool. Efforts to restore the painting are being pursued.