Blog July 29, 2013
Graffiti: Urban art or vandalism?
By Bruce Beaton
Heritage storytelling takes inspiration from many sources, and at Evergreen Brick Works, heritage engagement is inspired by the industrial, natural and geographical landscape. It goes beyond exploration of the narratives rooted in the intended use of the buildings and brick-making machinery, to include the graffiti and other remnants of the “lost” years of the Don Valley Brick Works after it was abandoned in 1989. It is these impressions that are the focus of a new exhibition at Evergreen Brick Works, now on display in The Kilns.
During the 1990s and into the early 2000s, the Brick Works became a place for illicit activities—particularly by area youth—including raves, art performances and even the occasional pig roast, and the walls of the vacant buildings became a blank canvas for local and international graffiti artists.
The evidence of this chapter in the evolving history of the Brick Works is still clearly visible—on almost every exposed surface. When Evergreen took over the site in 2008, most of the artwork was intentionally left in place, although all material that could be considered offensive was removed.
Created in cooperation with the University of Toronto, Masters of Museum Studies Program, the exhibit will feature an introductory graffiti primer for the uninitiated and a self-guided exploratory walking tour (PDF, 541 kB) of the on-site graffiti. This interpretative pilot project will begin to tell the full history of the “lost” years.
So is graffiti urban art or vandalism? Come, explore and decide for yourself. But whatever you decide, we think you’ll agree that it is an important part of the vibrant and diverse heritage of the site that should not go untold.