It’s said that crisis breeds creativity. Back in the spring, our mayor declared war on graffiti, and faster than you could say “watch where you stick that power hose,” his army of bylaw enforcers began doling out citations to property owners. The problem was that many of the so-called infractions were pieces of commissioned artwork, paid for by those property owners and created by accomplished artists (resist the urge to stereotype: some of them live in Rosedale and Forest Hill). Predictably, the crackdown provoked an increase in vandalism—tags and angry “bombs,” which is slang for the unsightly scrawl that requires little skill to execute and is a costly pain to remove. But it also provoked another response: some can-wielders decided to stick it to the mayor by upping their game.
Javid, a 30-something visual artist, is a project coordinator at Under the Radar, an arm of the not-for-profit organization Life Opportunities Food and Technology (LOFT), which employs at-risk youth. Javid and crew are responsible for some of the city’s most inspired aerosol artistry, including a 26-foot-high mural in a back alley at Bloor and Manning (pictured above). They believe that the more impressive the piece, the less likely it will be branded vandalism. Is it still graffiti? Javid says yes, but he’s aware of the semantics battle that leads all the way to Rob Ford’s executive boardroom. Whatever you call it, graffiti of this calibre can beautify our city. And if it makes us a little more rad in the process, so be it.