Hamilton gets its first legal street art wall as part of city's graffiti management strategy

Local street artists are getting a fresh canvas in the heart of Hamilton where they can paint graffiti legally.

On Saturday, the city is launching its first legal wall for street art in Woodlands Park on Barton Street East as part of its graffiti management strategy.

“This is what I would consider part of the innovative approach of the strategy,” said Ward 3 Coun. Nrinder Nann. “Which is about focusing on building opportunities and providing opportunities for graffiti artists or folks who may be currently focusing only on tagging to evolve their skills and move toward sanctioned art.”

The pilot project involves the installation of a 100-foot by eight-foot wood wall that will be available for any emerging street artists to display their work and develop their skills while challenging each other in “friendly competition,” which Nann said is part of the graffiti subculture.

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Ken Coit, program manager of public art and projects for the city’s tourism and culture division, said it’s about striking a balance between eradicating illegal graffiti and reaching out to street artists to let them know there’s an opportunity for them to create sanctioned art.

“There’s a huge need and want from the street art community for places to paint,” said Coit. “So we’re hoping it will be well-used and we’ll have a really interesting landmark down in Woodlands Park that’ll be constantly changing and evolving.

“Every time you go to the park, there’ll be a different artwork or different groups of artwork that you’ll be able to see there.”

Nann said the city chose Woodlands Park as the location for the wall for a number of reasons, including a great deal of existing support for street art in that neighbourhood.

“You see a lot of murals being painted in the back alleyways that are being commissioned in partnership between community organizations and private business owners,” said Nann. “So it felt like a natural fit, given where the activity already is, and where there’s community support for it as well.”

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The pilot project will run for the next year and Nann says if it’s successful, there could be more legal street art walls in other areas of the city.

“My hope would be that we’re going to evaluate it over time and make the wall a go-to place in the city for folks who want to Instagram the evolution of murals and street art in the city,” said Nann.

The project was developed in consultation with Concrete Canvas Festival founders Scott MacDonald and Leon Robinson, who are longtime members of the local street art scene and advised staff on how the project would actually appeal to the community.

The wall will be monitored by city staff for any inappropriate content and the project’s success will be evaluated by those involved in its implementation next summer.

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