News / Toronto

What's next for road murals in Toronto?

After a successful pilot project that saw four new road murals pop up in the city, staff are set to decide whether to allow more street art.

Activist Dave Meslin, who championed the road mural pilot project, said the best part was teaching local children that public spaces belong to them.

Courtesy Dave Meslin

Activist Dave Meslin, who championed the road mural pilot project, said the best part was teaching local children that public spaces belong to them.

A pilot project allowing residents to break out the paintbrush and add a little art to their local streets is being hailed as a success.

Street murals are not permitted in Toronto, but at the beginning of the year, council approved a pilot allowing four communities to paint them: Kensington Market, Lauder Avenue in Regal Heights, the Pocket in Riverdale and Hiawatha Road in Leslieville.

On Oct. 15, a group of residents and children put the finishing touches on the Hiawatha painting, meaning all four murals are now complete.

“It went really smoothly. Each of the murals looks really different and the talent that came out of each community was fantastic,” said Dave Meslin, a local activist who’s been championing the mural project.

Meslin said the best part of the project was getting kids involved in reimagining public space.

“The murals were painted almost entirely by children. And it’s so powerful for them to be able to return to those spots and see something they created,” he said.

“It sends a powerful message that the streets and the neighbourhood belongs to them.”

City staff will now review the murals and decide whether road painting should be allowed in Toronto going forward. An initial staff report on the matter said the paintings place “considerable administrative, regulatory, and maintenance burdens on the city.”

If road murals do get the thumbs up from staff and councillors, Meslin said the city should do something to lower the cost for residents. Between permit fees, paint, signage for street closures and insurance, he said the cost of each mural was nearly $1,000.

“We want to make sure there’s no financial barrier for any community to be able to use their own public spaces in whatever way they want to,” Meslin said. 

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