Cedarvale residents paint over 40 garage murals as a deterrent to incessant graffiti
Elly Dowson (left) and Christine Liber (right) have transformed their neighbourhood for the better
In 2011, Christine Liber and Elly Dowson, residents of Kenwood Avenue near St. Clair Avenue West and Bathurst Street, noticed that the garages in the laneway behind their houses were a hot spot for graffiti and vandalism. So the two, armed with paintbrushes and determination, embarked upon a mission to do something about it.
“We both realized this is useful, viable space, and it was being neglected,” said Liber, an art history major.
The two chose to speak with officers at Toronto Police Service 13 Division, who told them street art had proven to be an effective deterrent to vandalism. So Dowson (who holds a fine arts degree) and Liber rallied consent from neighbours to paint each garage in the area with a colourful mural.
A “before” shot of one of the tagged garages
They struck up a local partnership with Frank Reilly, of Maple Paints on St. Clair, who donated supplies to their cause.
Over the past four years, the two have managed to successfully paint more than 40 garages in their neighbourhood and still have requests coming in.
News of their efforts even reached Ward 21 councillor Joe Mihevc’s ears, who called the community building project a great example of “urban renewal.” So much so, that he said university professors have even begun to conduct tours down the laneway with hordes of interested students.
Liber and Dowson’s murals are often reminiscent of forested landscapes and Group of Seven paintings, in tribute to their ’hood, often called “the woods,” for its street names: Wychwood, Pinewood and Maplewood avenues.
And an “after” shot with mural in place.
And their work has paid off — not one garage featuring a mural has been vandalized, and the two have created a vibrant community haunt.
During their many conversations with neighbours, the two wound up forging a connection with area resident Lilie Zendel, who ironically runs the StreetART program for the City of Toronto.
An expert in the field, Zendel said the initiative fostered a sense of community in the area and as a result the laneway “feels safer, more attractive and pedestrian-friendly.”