Street art fest gives Yorkville an edgy facelift

The little square at 99 Yorkville Ave. used to be filled with beige brick, but now it has been injected with colour after 14 artists made their mark for the first annual Yorkville Murals festival.

14 artists cover a courtyard in paintings for the first Yorkville Murals festival

Mathieu Bories, also known as Mateo, will spend the next few days spray painting his mural for the first ever Yorkville Mural festival. This will be his first piece of work in the city. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC News)

The little square at 99 Yorkville Ave. used to be filled with beige brick, but now it has been injected with colour after 14 artists made their mark for the first annual Yorkville Murals festival.

As you enter the courtyard, every wall is covered in a unique painting by a different artist. A giant red one on the side of the Christian Louboutin store has a flare of folklore, while the one on the front of Taglialatella Galleries is almost like a wash of pastel. 

This giant artwork on the outside of Christian Louboutin store was created by Montreal-based Ola Volo. All of her work is inspired by her Kazakhstan roots. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC News)

"In terms of curation, I tried to select people who had very different styles, very different backgrounds, so all the murals tell different stories," said Alan Ganev, director of  Taglialatella Galleries and Yorkville Murals. 

Half of the artists are Canadian, including Toronto's Ben Johnston, who is famous for his three dimensional word art that pops off the wall. His work for the festival is simple, it's the word OK. 

Alan Ganev, director of Yorkville Murals, stands in front of the work created by Toronto artist Ben Johnston. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC News )

"He likes to do funny words that just connect to people in different ways," said Ganev. "If you go on Instagram for example you see people standing in front of the wall with the caption, 'Everything is A-OK.'" 

The event is running this weekend with DJs, food, light shows and live painting by two Montreal-based artists, Mateo and Xray — one is spray painting an elaborate closeup of a woman's face and the other will be using paint to complete a mouse made out of citrus fruit.

Artist Bryan Lanier, also known as Xray, will be spending the next few days on scaffolding painting his citrus mouse piece on the wall of 99 Yorkville Ave. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC News)

"It's a kind of a reference to my childhood growing up in Florida," said Xray, whose real name is Bryan Lanier.

"So it's a combination of the fresh citrus fruit that the state is known for and another childhood memory of going to Disney."

The opening night of Yorkville Murals festival drew hundreds of spectators. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC)

"You have to change your style of painting when it's live," said Mateo, whose real name is Mathieu Bories.

"It's more difficult to focus sometimes but the good part is you meet new people, people interested in art." 

The idea behind the project came from Charles Khabouth, the CEO of Ink Entertainment. He wanted to bring a version of Miami's famous urban graffiti garden, Wynwood Walls, to Toronto. 

Yorkville Murals features both local and international talent. The pastel abstract wall outside of Taglialatella Galleries was done by the artist Risk. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC News )

"Toronto is getting a lot of attention, and I'm hoping that we can help with that by making it a big destination for art as well as everything else," said Khabouth. 

Mixing big names like Los Angeles-based street artist Mr. Brainwash with local or up-and-coming talent is the cornerstone of the project, says Ganev. 

A section of the mural done by the Los Angeles-based street artist Mr. Brainwash. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC News)

"I think there's so many talented people in Canada but they rarely get to be shown in the context of the most established international names," said Ganev. "It also inspires local artists who want to make a living out of art."

The murals will be up for a year. After that, the plan is to change a few of them, as well as expand the project to other walls in Yorkville. 

About the Author

Natalie Nanowski

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Natalie is a storyteller who spent the last few years in Montreal covering everything from politics to corruption and student protests. Now that she’s back in her hometown of Toronto, she is eagerly rediscovering what makes this city tick, and has a personal interest in real estate and environmental journalism. When she’s not reporting you can find her at a yoga studio or exploring Queen St. Contact Natalie:


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