I adore street art that takes neglected or forgotten urban spaces and transforms them into something unexpected and beautiful!
Take Graffiti Alley – Toronto’s Laneway Louvre, for example, or the many murals that dapple our city streets!
As an art form, graffiti – like drag in the queer community – originated from a marginalized community and is all about subverting convention and expectation. And, also like drag queens, it’s colourful, surprising, and larger-than-life!
Tourists and residents alike know many of the best murals and Insta opportunities around the City – like Graffiti Alley. Everyone has their favourites! But there’s another gem hidden up in midtown at Eglinton, which combines beautiful artwork with social awareness, woven together with the ties of an ethnic community’s history – Reggae Alley!
In 2014, Josh Colle – Councillor for Ward 15 – assisted the residents of the Little Jamaica community in having a laneway at Eglinton and Oakwood renamed Reggae Lane. BlogTO wrote: “Together with the public arts organization The STEPS Initiative and The Laneway Project, Toronto-based artist Adrian Hayles and a group of young painters created a massive outdoor mural to makeover the space.
And it was stunning! It’s right at the end of the lane, running the length of a parking lot that can be used to hold small gatherings and celebratory events on occasion! The parking lot itself will soon undergo a makeover as part of the laneway’s revitalization project. (More below!)
It’s since been designated a Heritage Hub to celebrate the outstanding cultural and economic contributions made by the Black community in Toronto.
Want to know the bigger vision? Here’s the Master Plan for Reggae Lane.
And of course, there’s a ‘Welcome’ mural as you enter the lane. Hopefully, there will be plenty more artists displaying their vibrant work in this community lane in the future!
Still ongoing, the work on this project is far from complete. But here are the guiding principles. Reggae Lane is to be:
1. A Safe Space.
Visibility and natural surveillance should be strengthened with effective vehicular- and pedestrian-level lighting.
2. A Well-Managed Space.
The attractiveness and functionality of Reggae Lane should be ensured through the effective management of waste removal, littering, traffic and parking, and reinforced by ongoing monitoring.
3. A Shared Neighbourhood Space.
The appeal of Reggae Lane to all users should be enhanced through the introduction of spatial improvements such as greening, benches and effective lighting, and the pop-up use of the space for community events and artistic expression.
4. A Beautiful Space.
The attractiveness of Reggae Lane should be enhanced with the addition of greening and street art murals to adjacent properties.
5. An Accessible Space.
The role of Reggae Lane in the neighbourhood’s public realm should be strengthened with good paving and pedestrian amenities and marked with visual gateways.
We recognize that we are not a part of the Little Jamaica community, nor are we in a position to expound on the significance and meaning of these murals. We can admire their beauty, but these are not our stories.
To better understand the murals, here are some excellent sources:
Although the neighbourhood has expressed concern over some of the unsavoury activities that occur at night in this location, the community is committed to making this space more accessible and safe by creating more public activities. “For example, the city said it had worked closely with local organizers, Black farmers and patrons to develop the vibrant Afro/Caribbean market at the site this past summer.” (BlogTO)
We love that the City is applying for funding for projects like this that improve the fabric of our neighbourhoods while enhancing their uniqueness and preserving their history! After all, Little Jamaica is Toronto’s first designated Cultural District!!!!
Here’s our post on –> Little Jamaica!
*Title Image courtesy of As I Walk
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