Toronto

Mural project beautifies laneway named after local rapper killed in motorcycle accident

Artists will gather in the St. Clair West neighbourhood this weekend to paint dozens of murals in Feel Good Lane — a laneway named after a local rapper who died in 2014.

About three dozen garages and walls will be painted this weekend

Barry Luksenberg makes the sign for '512,' the name of his hip hop crew based out of the St. Clair West neighbourhood. A mural project happening this weekend will transform the local laneway named after the 24-year-old. (Leonard Luksenberg)

Artists will gather in the St. Clair West neighbourhood this weekend to paint dozens of murals in Feel Good Lane — a laneway named after a local rapper who died in 2014.

Barry Luksenberg, 24, grew-up in the area and performed under the name 'FeelGood.' He was killed in a motorcycle accident while travelling across Vietnam with a friend.

His father, Leonard Luksenberg, often visits the park and laneway.

"Making the laneway more attractive and just having a project that people are getting behind, it's really nice," he said. 

"There's a lot of good thought and good sentiment behind it."

Ward 21's Laneway Naming Committee made the lane name official in 2016, after the suggestion came from Barry Luksenberg's family. (Joe Mihevc)

Luksenberg said the area is special to Barry's friends and crew, named the "512," an ode to the local streetcar route.

"The neighbourhood has always been a focal point for them," he said. "He grew-up playing in the park with his friends ... they were constantly going through the laneway to each other's houses." 

Barry's friends created a tribute song and video for him, which includes many photos and videos of Barry, snippets from his travels to Vietnam and scenes from the St. Clair West neighbourhood and the laneway being transformed.

Laneway 'art gallery'

Feel Good Lane is located one block north of St. Clair West and in between Arlington and Atlas Avenues, near Graham Park.

Ward 21's Laneway Naming Committee made the lane name official in 2016, after the suggestion came from Barry's family. The committee dedicates laneways to residents who they believe should be remembered for their community contributions.

"The response was really amazing," Luksenberg said. "It was really touching."

Julian Back and Kim Lesperance, local residents and art lovers, decided to organize the effort to beautify the space.

"It's a park, and it's where we raised our kids and where we meet with our community," Lesperance said.

"There was a member of our community who was taken far too young … so with all of that in mind, it was just an initiative that we've worked on together."

Local residents and art lovers, decided to organize the effort to beautify the space. (Kim Lesperance)

Back also said he wanted to go beyond just naming the laneway and make the space vibrant and enjoyable for residents and children who use the area.

"A lot of people got behind it," he said. "They'll have this sort of art gallery every day, so that's going to be very cool."

They began with the goal of transforming two or three garages with help from donations on a GoFundMe page.

They raised about $3,800, but they also caught the attention of the city's StreetARToronto (StART) program, which supports vibrant street art programs in order to reduce graffiti vandalism, encourage active transportation and make laneways more inviting spaces.

The program contributed about $20,000 to the project to pay artists and to buy supplies.

The funding allowed the organizers to expand the project to about three dozen artists and murals.

One of the garages that will be transformed Oct. 20 and 21 through the Feel Good Lane Mural Project. (Kim Lesperance)

'It'll truly feel good now'

The laneway will include murals of animals and nods to the neighbourhood as well as tributes to Luksenberg, including a Vietnamese landscape, hip hop dancers and the text, "Feel Good Lane," at one entrance.

Brooke Somerleigh is organizing the artwork along with her husband, graffiti artist 'SPUD.' Together, they work under the name Team SPUDBomb.

"Our vision is making it much brighter and when the kids are there, the awe in their faces when they see the art versus what they've been seeing, which is just, it looks a little run down," she said.

Almost every resident on the street is taking part in the mural project, Somerleigh said.

"It's truly making the laneway feel better than it has. It'll truly feel good now."

The artists will be working on the murals October 20 and 21, with a community party being held Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m. to unveil their work.

Luksenberg said he'll be there to see it.

"One thing I really appreciated was how Kim and Jules tied the art project back to the naming of the laneway after Barry and making it inclusive in that way," he said. "It's really great."

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