Terrific Toronto Street Art (and where to find it)

Toronto Street Art

Street art hunting has become a new favourite pastime of mine because I like colours and pretty, shiny things. So when I visited Canada in early February, I was excited to check out the Toronto street art scene. And I was far from disappointed.

Unfortunately, it was cold – below freezing at times – so I didn’t get to see as much Toronto street art in as many different spots as I’d hoped. But I did manage to find a few different forms of street art, not just the spray paint on walls type either. There’s sculpture and a few other bits and pieces for good measure. If you like colourful Instagram shots from your holidays or vacations, this is the spot to find them.

Toronto has a pretty good reputation when it comes to street art, and it’s well-deserved. According to this very well-written piece by Kate Pocock on Tourism Toronto’s website, the “abundance of epic street art is party due to the caliber of the graffiti artists/writers…. and partly due to StreetARToronto”.  StreetARToronto connects artists with neighbourhoods that could use a bit of rejuvenation and colour. There are a few arms, and one of them combines improved amenities such as better lighting and sidewalks for underpasses with opportunities for mid-career or established artists to contribute street art.

Toronto Street Art of Top Cat
I used to love Top Cat when I was a kid. This is by @C_Mack2.0

Obviously government support plays a huge role in keeping Toronto colourful. There may still be a bit of argy-bargy in terms of what’s considered vandalism and what should be called street art. But it seems to have been a step in the right direction for Toronto at least.

TORONTO STREET ART

Now that we know why it’s been so welcome, let’s talk about the famous street artists who have used the city walls and tunnels as canvasses for their work. Banksy is arguably the most famous street artist in the world and has been for a while now. The anonymous British artist visited Toronto in 2010 and drew several pieces for the public to find. Only two remain today. One depicting a guard holding a muzzled dog balloon, was moved under the city, into the warren of pedestrian walkways known as the PATH. The other is on the corner of Church and The Esplanade and is less easy to describe.

Another anonymous artist, Alec Monopoly, has endeared himself to Torontonians with his Rich Uncle Pennybags character – coming straight out of a game of Monopoly it seems. The New York artist has created a mural on the red carpet for Justin Bieber’s Believe film premiere in 2013. Apart from that, he’s had work purchased by the likes of Miley Cyrus, Snoop Dogg and Seth Rogan.

A little closer to home, Elicser Elliot is a Montreal native but his work is well known in Toronto, where he’s now based. Apart from his prolific street art murals and public artworks, Elicser’s work has been exhibited at The Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum.

Elicser-Elliott-Queen-Street
You can find Elicser Elliott’s work all over Toronto.

Then there’s Anser. His artwork is easy to identify, it usually includes the face of a character known as Mysterious Date, first created in 2007. Anser is known as one of the city’s most prolific graffiti artists and his one line face was created to engage the public, most of whom can see themselves in the character.

TERRIFIC TORONTO STREET ART AND WHERE TO FIND IT

You might have heard of a few of these places before, but some will almost certainly be new to you, as will the street art you’ll find there, since it seems like there can be a high turnover rate in some spots. Brace yourselves for the photographic onslaught.

Toronto Street Art

Graffiti Alley

Probably the most well known street art spot in Toronto is Graffiti Alley. You’ll find it between Portland Street and Spadina Avenue in the city’s west, and you’ll get more than your fill of aerosol art right here.

It’s in the Fashion District, which may explain some of the creativity out there. And if you can’t find it under the name Graffiti Alley, try typing in 1 Rush Lane into your Maps app and give it a burl. There is about a kilometre of legal graffiti on everything from the brick and veneered walls, to garage doors and sidewalks. Basically anything that’s not going somewhere is going to get sprayed.

Toronto Street Art ant

You might recognise Graffiti Alley from TV if you’ve watched Canadian Broadcasting Corporation comedian Rick Mercer, who made the alley famous by filming his weekly commentary there. He may have started a trend, because while I was there a young teenager was being filmed for a school project. Well I assume so anyway, she was speaking French so it was tough to make out.

UBER5000

You can’t miss Uber5000’s work in Graffiti Alley – he’s got some of the biggest and most impressive pieces of work in the place.

My favourite was the underwater world created on the side of Portland Place Non-Profit Housing at 169 Rush Lane. The vibrant oranges and pinks of coral and the bright blue water make the building stand out. There are so many different fish and sea creatures jammed into this huge canvas that it feels a bit like a Where’s Wally (Where’s Waldo for the North Americans playing along) picture.

Toronto Street art Uber 5000's piece
This isn’t even half of the wall that Uber5000’s artwork graces in Rush Lane.

You really have to see it in real life to get an idea of the scale of the street art. And an idea of just how long it would have taken to get all of the details just right to fill up this huge side of the building.

Toronto Street Art Uber5000 fish
Who says a crab and some fish aren’t playing Texas Hold-em right now?

A more recent artwork by Uber5000 has a little more local flavour to it and the reaction from Torotonians and Canadians alike is usually a quick chuckle. I’d like to introduce the third of three pieces that includes the reef above, that Uber5000 said work together, according to thestar.com.

Toronto street art by Uber5000 depicting Toronto Life
There’s so much more to this than originally meets the eye.

The reef was a metaphor for the city of Toronto, in that it’s a tiny place that’s home to an enormous population of life. The same goes for the above work of street art. There’s so much going on in such a small place that you’ve really got to stop and take it all in. Here’s a few things to spot:

  • Darwin ‘the Ikea monkey’: See that monkey climbing the CN Tower? His name is Darwin, and he was found wandering around outside a Toronto Ikea store, wearing a coat in 2012. I’m not even joking. He’s been living at a Primate Sanctuary ever since.
  • Drake: Perched on the top of the CN tower, is the human-shaped figure of musician Drake. It’s a nod to the cover art for his 2016 album Views.
  • Crane woman: Marisa Lazo plead guilty to “mischief” charges after climbing a crane on a Toronto construction site in April 2017 and becoming stranded.  She had to be rescued by a firefighter. Read more here. The mind boggles.
  • Dart Guy: Under the crane is a man painted blue, perched on a roof. That’s Dart guy, made famous after he was the lone Toronto Maple Leafs supporter in a sea of Washington Capitals fans during a Stanley Cup playoff game. I don’t know why he’s named “Dart guy”. Maybe because he had a ciggie hanging out the corner of his mouth when he was put on the big screen.
  • Godzilla: He’s not Canadian at all, but when you have the opportunity to paint a cityscape, why would you pass up the opportunity to throw him in? He’s a DJ in this depiction.
Uber5000 artwork of chickens in Toronto
It’s almost impossible to grow up or live in Toronto and not have gone skating.

Then there are a few scenes of Toronto life as depicted by Uber5000’s chicken characters. Whether you’re into skating, hockey, music, or kicking back and watching the world go by, there’s a story for you right here.

Uber5000 artwork, cool crow
This super cool bird is showing his chicken mate the ropes.

ELICSR / ELICSER ELLIOT

I’ve found a couple of different spellings of Elicser’s name both online and in his tags so let’s hedge our bets here. It turns out that Elicser did a bit of “Artist Formerly Known As…” gear and went by Elicsr for a year, but eventually moved to Elicser Elliot. He’s got quite a few murals up in Graffiti Alley and they are pretty starkly different to Uber5000’s. For starters they’re much more focused on people and tends to be influenced by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

Toronto Street Artist's 2017 work, called Sight
Elicser Elliott’s 2017 street art work is on display in Graffiti Alley and is called Sight.

Elliott’s portraits can be dark, but are always beautiful, even when depicting tragedy or hard times. And according to Wikipedia (yes, I’m quoting the pedia): “His character work is often mediated by past experiences and relationships while also drawing on the likeness of passers-by to complete his community-based murals.”

I would love to be able to tell you more about this work, but I honestly can’t find anything on it, and my attempts to contact Elliott have not been successful. So we’ll all just have to stare at the wall and think about what it means to us.

Son of Soul and King Reign Toronto rappers
Elicser Elliott’s tribute to Toronto DJ Son of Soul and rapper King Reign, who died in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

The above iconic piece is one that Elliott himself says he doesn’t do often – a tribute to the lives of the deceased. He explained his decision to paint this one on Instagram:

Its coming to that time in my life when people are making new babies, weddings are happening, and people die.. I never do R.I.P pieces but I knew these cats.. I listen to there music and felt proud to have known them. Time.. We are all getting old.. Take care of your selves.. Rest in piece to Son of Soul and King Reign. Toronto’s children. – @ElicserElliott

A heart attack put King Reign (Kunle Thomas) into a coma, and ultimately lead to his death in June 2016. DJ Son of Soul (Masimba Kadzirange) died in his sleep in September 2015, aged just 44.

Ellicser Elliott Toronto Street Art

Naturally framed by the wall it resides on, the above piece of Elliott’s street art has no explanation that I could find. Which, of course, doesn’t make it less lovely. But I’m loathe to put my own meaning on it.

EATURPIE

EatUrPie and #PieBoy are the pseudonyms (or is that noms de plume?) of Toronto-based graphic designer and illustrator Billy Franklin. Who helpfully pixelates his face from photos of himself. Not only is he a master of keeping his facial features well-hidden, but in a world where a Google search usually brings up something about everyone, Franklin is mysteriously absent.

Sure, he has his own website and Instagram presence (which is NSFW by the way), but they are devoid of the usual details that an artist usually sends into the ether.

Pieboy street art
This piece of art is captioned simply on @EatUrPie’s Instagram account “OH GEES VS THE YUNG UNS”.

EARTH CRUSHER

Describes him/it self well in an interview with Bizarre Beyond Belief Magazine with the words “Earth Crusher is the embodiment of the secret ruling class; the PR super mind, the master of money. As long as there has been an opportunity for corruption, there has been Earth Crusher.”

Earth Crusher street art of robot in a suit
Looking for a supreme overlord? Earth Crusher is here for you.

It kind of says it all, to be honest. If you’re looking for an artist/s that lives and breathes a project, Earth Crusher seems to be it. If you look a little closer, its aim is to “maximize overall return to its shareholders by controlling and dominating all life on the planet”. Kind of sounds like a Doctor Who alien villain to me. One that I’d probably be fine with since it leaves behind some pretty cool street art in the process.

FEEL THE RUSH / GREG MIKE MENSCHING

In the red and blue corner, representing America is Greg Mensching, better known as Greg Mike. After kicking off his graffiti education at 13, Greg moved over to murals and street art and has painted works in the US, Australia, Canada and Switzerland.

Toronto Street art
Greg Mike’s street art is usually accompanied by #FeelTheRush

He also has his own art gallery and agency called ABV Agency and Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia, where artists from around the globe exhibit their work. If you’re looking for the key to Worcester, Massachusetts, Greg Mike was awarded it in September 2016. He also won the Creative Loafing award for Best Established Visual Artist in 2017. He was named a Notable Georgian that same year.

POSER

Poser‘s bunnies can be found all over Toronto displaying many moods – from manic to happy, sad and disturbed – the rabbits have been multiplying for years since 2012. They’re iconic and unmistakable, you don’t walk past a Poser bunny without knowing that it’s his.

Toronto street art bunnies by Poser
Poser’s bunnies are very distinct and definitely stand out on the Toronto Street Art scene.

He started his street art career back in Ottawa more than 15 years ago and learned the art the hard way – seeing his pieces crossed over for a few years before he started getting some well-earned respect. Now in Toronto, you can see Poser’s work everywhere. He’s also part of the International  ABM Crew.

Poser street art in Toronto


TORONTO STREET ART WITHOUT THE AEROSOL

While street art has evolved to describe aerosol and mural art commissioned for buildings and sometimes surreptitiously painted on them, there are other types of street art. I found so much of it around Toronto that it’s impossible to leave it out from a comprehensive post like this.

I’m bound to have missed a bunch of them, but this is the street art that I stumbled across on my Toronto exploring trips by foot.

The Toronto Sign

The Toronto Sign is always an Instagrammable spot that you’ll see plastered all over your feed by travellers. But in winter the sign takes it up a notch when the pond in front of the sign is turned into an ice rink. I don’t skate myself because of a severe lack of coordination diagnosed at birth that has not been cured to this day, but the photo opportunities in winter are pretty nice.

The Toronto Sign

It’s situated in Nathan Phillips Square, right in front of the Toronto City Hall and was first installed in July 2015 to celebrate that year’s PanAm Games. 

The Simcoe Wavedeck

You don’t usually equate docks with street art and design aesthetics, but the Simcoe Wavedeck turns that on its head. The cedar decks were designed with the shorelines of Ontario’s lakes in mind. In winter the decks are closed because the snow and ice makes them slippery. It’s my excuse for not getting a better photo from the opposite side, where you’d be able to see the decks heights vary and their waves look like ripples on a lake.

Simcoe Wavedeck

If you visit at night you’ll get to experience the Simcoe Wavedeck all lit up at the water’s edge. The Simcoe Wavedeck was opened in 2009 it its waves undulate 2.6 metres above the water below.

 

The Runaway News Truck

Venture over to the east side of the CTV building on Queen Street and you’ll get a glimpse of something you don’t see every day – a truck hanging half out of the building. The former City News truck is on the corner of Queen and John streets, where the news studio was headquartered previously.

CTV News Truck, Toronto

If you get there on a windy day, you’ll be lucky enough to see the wheels spinning as well.

Dog’s Paradise

Canine fanatics should stroll down to Berzcy Park in the St Lawrence Market area to see the fountain installed in 2017, designed by Claude Cormier. The fountain includes 27 dogs staring at one giant bone at the fountain’s peak. Oh and one scatty-looking cat.

Dog Fountain in Toronto

It was a little tricky to get a proper photo of the fountain, so my advice is to go and see it in person. There park was refurbished in 2017 and is a beautiful spot in the middle of the city.

The Golden Bone fountain toronto


Brookfield Place

Brookfield Place is two towers worth of office space, but connecting the pair is the Allen Lambert Galleria, also known as the Crystal Cathedral of Commerce. It sits above the Hockey Hall of Fame and Toronto’s PATH, an underground warren of tunnels with shopping and cafes that serves the city when the mercury dips below zero.

Brookfield Place Atrium

But back to Allen Lambert Galleria, which was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and is six stories high. It’s reminiscent of a high canopy of trees in a forest and if you visit at night you can see it all lit up. It really is awe-inspiring and a jaw-dropping place to visit.

Toronto | street art | Toronto Street Art | #streetart | #TorontoStreetArt | #Murals | #Graffiti | graffiti | murals | expat lifeToronto | street art | Toronto Street Art | #streetart | #TorontoStreetArt | #Murals | #Graffiti | graffiti | murals | expat life Toronto | street art | Toronto Street Art | #streetart | #TorontoStreetArt | #Murals | #Graffiti | graffiti | murals | expat life        

56 thoughts on “Terrific Toronto Street Art (and where to find it)

  1. I had no idea there was a whole Graffiti Alley in Toronto! I’m such an art lover and I find it amazing that all of them are so different and creative, cause they are on every surface from the brick to doors! Loved this post!

  2. I knew you had visited Toronto and this post was about the street art….and then today to hear of “another” massacre by a vehicle in that city is so so sad.

    It is hard to fathom the heartache and sadness this city, and the rest of the world must be feeling now.

    Thanks so much for linking up for #lifethisweek 17/52. Next week’s optional prompt is Taking Stock 18/52. Denyse

  3. I like that you’ve discussed the ‘non aerosol’ street art category because understanding the origins of these works as well gives me a broader picture of the life of the streets of a new city.

    SSG xxx

  4. This is pretty terrific street art! I’m I’m partial to street art! I like it when it’s creative, clean and vibrant unlike just trashy graffiti. Definitely pinned this! And that dog statue is adorbs! #CityTripping

  5. LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS! I’ve been thinking I’d visit Toronto for quite some time now, and I do love street art! Definitely saving this for when I finally make it there! #citytripping

  6. First off, these photos are killer! And Secondly, thank you for inspiring me. I am based out of Detroit and we have some magnificent street art of our own (though I don’t think quite at this level). Maybe I’ll do a post about that soon! Thanks for sharing. #farawayfiles

  7. Totally pinning this for later. I love street art and would love to find some of these if I ever make my way back to Toronto! The Simcoe Wavedeck looks very cool too. I can only imagine what a nightmare it would be in the winter… it makes sense that they would shut it down!

  8. Funny but my partner and I JUST talked about going to Toronto! What is the best time of the year to go do you think? Street art is becoming such a prevalent part of most major cities and I think they are prety cool, espcially if they have a meaning and represents something important that is sysnonymous to that city and its history. Great collation!

  9. This is so cool! The street art in Toronto is fabulous! I am not sure how you would have captured more if the weather was nicer. I guess you would have ended with hundreds and hundreds of more photos. This is a city I would like to visit for sure!

  10. Street art has become a real style for many of the modern cities of the world. They are colorful, funny, and full of joy. Seeing these paintings/drawings make you feel happy and that life is more easy. I think that this is a good attitude when it comes to living in big, bustling cities. I am sure that Toronto is one of them and the examples that you have are fabulous.

  11. I love all the art, that is so great that the city is supporting this! It is awesome to see so much color and beauty where it would otherwise be dingy and old without the art.

  12. I’ve never been to Toronto, but I need to see these! Graffiti Alley and the Simcoe Wavedeck are my favorite in your pictures! I’m always in awe of art of that size!

  13. That’s amazing! I didn’t know Toronto has so much street art to offer!! I really love it and I can’t wait to visit some of these places someday. By the way, my favorite one is the one with the birds, that’s cute 🙂

  14. I live in Dallas and it has a good amount of street art but the street art in Toronto is insane!!!! So colorful. Especially those fishes. Sorry there was bad weather but you still got to see a good amount if amazing art at least.

  15. And just when I thought Toronto could not be more amazing! Sharing is caring so thanks for the nice tips and pics, will love to explore them and see live in my own as well. Great pics!

  16. I loved Toronto when we went, I hadn’t expected it to be as cool
    As it is! The street art is very impressive, I love uber 5000’s work you shared! I missed the dog fountain though, I would have loved that!

  17. These were awesome! I wish I knew about all of it when I went two years ago. Granted, I was with family that really don’t care about street art, but I would’ve loved to see these!

  18. I love street art too and although I have not been to Toronto, I have heard of the graffiti alley. Interesting to learn more about the history of street art there. Pinning your post for reference when I do make it to Toronto. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard

  19. Omg I love all that street art! I need to spend more time in Toronto and explore all these places (and eat all the great food!)
    Thanks for sharing! Will save for my next trip 🙂

  20. Great photos of street art. I was just on Austin, Texas and spent a whole day looking at street art. I also did a great street art tour in Buenos Aires. I’ll have to put Toronto on the list to go to.

  21. Wow, this is incredible. Great job on the research angle of the piece. Knowing more about the artist and their style really helps pack more punch into the artwork. I’ve been to Toronto years ago, and was impressed with the street art scene then. It looks even more amazing now. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard!

  22. This is really some terrific street art! I’d love to see it for myself. I really like the chickens in Uber5000’s piece and the wavedeck. Very cool! #TheWeeklyPostcard

  23. Wow, without knowing Toronto at all this post made me feel part of its arty street colourful vibes! I love Banksy but no idea about the other artists – loved your camera shots and Insta extracts! #CulturedKids

    1. Banksy was the only one I knew before I started researching for this post! But now I love lots of these artists and I’m looking out for them in other places 🙂

    1. The wave was one of my favourites. I wish that I was there in spring or summer so that the other side of the wavedeck was open as well!

    2. And it’s not like an art gallery where you have to worry about them running around and yelling too much. They can be as loud as they want outside!

  24. Amazing as all of the murals are, it’s the fountain I like the most! It’s so cute and clever. Fantastic post that we are pinning for later. Hopefully, we’ll have a chance to go see the Toronto street art soon! #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. Ooh I hope you do get a chance to see it for yourselves! I had so much fun trying to figure out how to photograph that fountain. It’s such a cool piece of street art!

  25. Cool! I am about to write a post on street art in Amman, Jordan so this post def caught my eye. I LOVE that dog fountain!!! And wow – there is some super colorful street art. Loved this post!!! 🙂

  26. WOW the Toronto street art is SO vibrant! I LOVE that! Plus, Toronto is one of my favorite cities in the world so I may be biased, haha! Thanks for joining Fly Away Friday, hope to see you tomorrow for the 50th one – exciting things happening! xo

  27. What a great post about my home city’s street art. I haven’t seen the new fountain with the dogs yet but must! It looks amazing!!! Thanks for coming to Fly Away Friday! Hope to see you tomorrow for our 50th link up!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *