Street Art
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StreetARToronto You’ve Changed: A Guide to Toronto’s Evolving Street Art Scene

Looking to find out more about urban art in Toronto, but aren’t sure where to begin? This free exhibit has got you covered.

Whether you’re on the hunt for that perfect Instagram backdrop, searching for creative inspiration, or just want to appreciate some incredible public artwork, Toronto is the place for you. But in a city that’s become internationally renowned for its thriving urban art scene and thousands of dynamic murals, where should you start?

StreetARToronto’s newest event can give you some pointers. StreetARToronto You’ve Changed is a free exhibit that will run until April 19 at the Market Gallery. It showcases the way street artists have transformed Toronto’s public spaces into a city-wide gallery. The exhibit uses photographs, videos, and interactive displays to explore over 100 StreetARToronto projects created in the past seven years.

You've Changed Mural
View inside the gallery, with the banner image depicting the exhibit’s namesake. The You’ve Changed mural, created by Jesse Harris, is located on Queen Street West beside CAMH.

StreetARToronto (StART) is an initiative of the city’s Transportation Services Division. It began in 2012 as part of the Graffiti Management Plan, in an effort to reduce graffiti vandalism and support visually appealing, community-engaging artwork. StART’s vision is to utilize street art “as a place-making tool that demonstrates the positive and powerful impacts of diversity and inclusion.” It seeks to “add colour and vitality to neighbourhoods; encourages active transportation; [and] showcases the talent and creativity of artists, art organizations and the City of Toronto.” StART also supports art that conveys messages about topics such as Indigenous heritage, environmental issues, and women’s empowerment.

The You’ve Changed exhibit outlines StreetARToronto’s numerous programs. From laneways and underpasses, to communities and partnerships, StART collaborates with a wide variety of organizations and artists to bring the city’s public spaces to life.

Laneway mural
Laneway mural by Jeff Blackburn, near Ossington Avenue.

Over the past few decades there has been a growing international interest in street art. According to “Redefining Public Art in Toronto”—a collaborative research project between OCAD and the University of Toronto—this is because street art can “educate and engage youth, spark tourism, help us to understand ourselves better, and enhance our day-to-day experience of the urban environment.” Although Toronto lagged behind major cities in Europe and Latin America until the StART initiative was developed, it has since begun to see a drastic increase in public artwork. 

Close-ups of a mural at the Carrot Common on the Danforth: The Cycle of the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird by Marg Cresswell.

Queen Street West, the Ossington Strip, the Bentway, and even the Danforth itself—these days you don’t have to look far to find urban art in Toronto. Just look at the hashtag #torontostreetart which has over 50,000 posts on Instagram. StreetARToronto’s exhibit is a great starting point to learn about the city’s ever-changing street art scene. Of course once you’ve learned about it, you’ll want to see the art for yourself. While there are plenty of ways to go about this, the best is just to take a walk around the city and see what you can find. Grab a cup of coffee, some treats for the road, and (most importantly) your camera. 

If you have neither the time nor the desire to leisurely wander the city’s streets, you can always book a guided walking tour. Or, for a more strategic approach, StART has created an online map to help visitors and residents explore street art throughout the city. The map is currently in beta and is still missing thousands of pieces, but with over 800 murals logged and more being entered regularly, it can be a useful guide. 

Happy street art strolling!

The Market Gallery is open Tuesday–Friday from 10 am to 4 pm, and Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm. It is located on the second floor of the St. Lawrence Market. 

What artwork did you find? What’s your favourite, or most Instagram-worthy spot? Let us know in the comments below.

Photographs by: Kelsey McCallum

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