Graffiti-marred laneway transformed into 'living art gallery'

Fed up with looking at grafitti-covered garages on a lane behind their homes in the St. Clair west neighbourhood, Christine Liber and Elly Dowson picked up paint cans and went to work.

Community groups meet Thursday to discuss transforming gritty laneways into outdoor art galleries

Fed up with looking at graffiti-covered garages on a lane behind their homes in the St. Clair West neighbourhood, Christine Liber and Elly Dowson picked up paint cans and went to work.

But little did they know that their project was part of a growing city-wide trend to transform Toronto's ugly, deteriorating laneways. 

Liber will be sharing her story at Laneway Confessions: 2nd Annual Laneway Summit Thursday evening at the Church of the Holy Trinity.

"There was lots of vandalism and tagging and disrepair in the laneway and we thought it was time to reclaim the space so we offered to paint people's garages for free," Liber told CBC News.

Liber and Dowson, both members of the Kenwood Laneway Art Initiative, have painted over 40 garages in the laneway between Kenwood Avenue and Wychwood Avenue and have noticed the ripple effect.

"The kids play hockey here, they ride their bikes here," Liber said. "I seldom walk on the sidewalks, I walk in the laneways because it's really pleasant. It's like a living art gallery. And it's become a lovely focal point for our street."

Miraculously, no one has defaced the garages.

'Respect the art'

"It's encouraging that people respect the art and the time we've put into it," Liber said.

Michelle Senayah, an urban designer and co-director of The Laneway Project, told CBC the two-year-old group's mission is to change the way we look at our 2,400 lanes.

She said they're viewed as "under-used, slightly dirty, utilitarian spaces but in a number of areas around the city, there are groups working to improve them."

The Laneway Project is working with several local communities to reimagine unattractive lanes in their neighbourhoods. In the downtown area, it has partnered with Ryerson University, the Downtown Yonge BIA and Covenant House to transform O'Keefe Lane near Yonge Street and Gould Street "as a welcoming, safe and dynamic shared space."

Liber said when Senayah approached her about a month ago to participate in Thursday's summit, she realized "there was a way bigger movement afoot here and in cities like Seattle and Melbourne."

"It's so exciting," Liber said. "It's about following your joy."

Before

A garage on a laneway located between Kenwood Avenue and Wychwood Avenue before it was painted by Christine Liber and Elly Dowson.

After

The same garage after it was painted by Liber and Dowson.

Before

A garage on a laneway located between Kenwood Avenue and Wychwood Avenue before it was painted by Liber and Dowson.

After

The same garage after it was painted by Liber and Dowson.

Before

A grafitti-covered garage on a lane between Kenwood and Wychwood.

After

The same garage after it was painted by Liber and Dowson.

Laneway Confessions happens at the Church of the Holy Trinity, 9 Trinity Square, Thursday. The event begins at 6 p.m. Admission is $11.20

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