Monthly Archives: May 2007

Excellent article about legal graf walls

Save legal graffiti walls – The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Monday, May 21, 2007 (see link below)

The city is considering phasing out legal graffiti walls. That would make Ottawa duller, greyer and no less vulnerable to vandalism.

There are two established, well-used legal walls in Ottawa: one underneath the Dunbar Bridge on Bronson Avenue near Carleton University, and the other at the Ottawa Technical High School site in Centretown.

One of the arguments for such walls is the flypaper theory: by giving kids with spraycans a legal outlet, they deter vandalism elsewhere. This theory has been proven wrong, at least in Ottawa.

That isn’t surprising. Graffiti can be split into two categories: tagging and art. Tagging consists of ugly, repetitive signatures. It’s property damage. It’s done because it’s illegal. As city staff point out in a recent report: “Graffiti vandals typically see themselves as anti-establishment agents, do not respect the law and do not want to work on graffiti legally.”

Then staff makes a leap in logic, assuming that since the the legal wall hasn’t decreased tagging in the surrounding area, it must be encouraging tagging.

That simply doesn’t make sense. If taggers have no desire to colour within the lines, the existence of a legal wall should have no effect on their behaviour. If they tag a legal wall, it’s out of ignorance or to destroy someone else’s art.

There are, though, graffiti artists for whom legal walls are the perfect medium. While they aren’t taggers, they do itch to express themselves in some public form. And they are — just a little — anti-establishment. They are not seeking the rush that comes with getting away with vandalism, but neither are they keen to do a mural of sunshine and flowers commissioned by the local business improvement area.

The Tech Wall in Centretown is a bright spot in a dull area. If tagging in the neighbourhood has been increasing, it’s hard to pin that on the Tech Wall. Indeed, the staff report gives several possible reasons for the increase in reported graffiti (even climate change is on the list). Washing off the Tech Wall would be a hasty and mean-spirited reaction to the graffiti problem — much like the city’s foolish erasure of children’s hopscotch markings in the Glebe.

If city staff gets its way, removal of the two legal walls will be one element of the city’s updated graffiti management strategy.

The city committee that dealt with the report decided to monitor the two walls for a year before deciding their fate. In any event, it seems unlikely the city will approve any new legal walls soon.

This is a shame. There are many reasons to support legal walls beyond the flawed flypaper theory.

The staff report contains the prim and inflexible statement: “Graffiti is not art.” The large and complex “masterpieces” some graffiti artists create rival the abstract compositions hanging in galleries. And even when they don’t, they’re respite for the tired eyes of bus commuters.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2007


Montana Sponsors HoP 2007


Once again HoP artists will be writing with Montana paints! Contact Yann at Norlm for more information about space:

Legal Wall Exemption in Writing

city-of-ottawa-jointdisposition1-updated.pdf  For those of you who are interested, this is the Joint Disposition by the City of Ottawa Community and Protective Services Committee and the Transportation Committee in which they outline amendments made to the graffiti management strategy and propose that it be put to a vote by council on May 23rd.  Write your city councillor about it so we don’t loose our walls!  You can also check it out on the city website:

Anti-Graffiti Squad Erases Kids Fun

2007 – May 5th – Ottawa Citizen – An article about the kids whose chalk hop-scotch game got erased by the city’s excessive anti-graffiti zeal.

HoP and the Hip Hop 360 Fest Media Launch

 hip-hop-360-logo.jpg House of Paint Festival in the News 

HoP and Legal Walls in the News – May 4th


 Photo of Tech Wall painted by Daser, courtesy of ravensview
Graffiti Managment and HoP as a Legal Graf Wall

Legal Walls Safe for One More Year!



This just in: Councillors voted today to uphold the proposed strategy… but they voted to exempt both House of PainT and Tech Wall, which means that even tho legal walls won’t be part of the city’s ‘graffiti management strategy’ these two will be allowed to continue. =)

Councillors Clive Doucet (House of PainT ward) and Diane Holmes (Tech Wall ward) proposed motions to exempt the walls (they’re long time supporters of them) – and the committee approved them. The exemption will be reviewed after one year with the hope that there will be a reduction of illegal tagging and graf in the area around the walls.

Though they’re definitely cracking down on illegal graf, and some seem to think all graf is bad graf, several Councillors were surprisingly supportive of the idea of legal walls. They recommended that city staff stay in closer contact with us so that artists can have a voice in the decision making process (there were no writers or youth on the committee as far as I could tell), and most were surprised and impressed by the quality of art they saw at House of PainT and Tech (we showed them the pictures on this blog).

It’s too bad that such a heavy handed report when through, but at the moment I’m just really happy we managed to save these two spaces. They’re important parts of our community and I would hate to loose them.

To those of you who came out: We done good yo! Keep up the good work!

Will keep up the activism for more free art spaces in Ottawa, but for now it’s back to planning the event…


HoP Coordinator