Artist Takes On ‘Unattractive’ Graffiti

Gallery owner Bob Daniels figured if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

After cleaning up graffiti and battling taggers for years, he’s showing the city that there’s more to graffiti than vandalism.

Local artist Bryce Huffman is painting a mural on the garage door of Earls Court Gallery, in a back alley off Ottawa Street North, to cover unsightly “hip-hop” tags. “I always thought that alley strip that Rick Mercer passes during his rants was so cool. Some of that (art) is amazing,” Daniels said. But in this back alley, taggers have spoiled walls and doors, fences and cars. “I think what annoys me is that it’s totally unattractive, total disregard. Why does this jerk think I want to look at that?” Daniels asks, pointing to a pair of “tags” on a neighboring wall.

To help clean up, Hamilton introduced a commercial property improvement grant (CPIG) in 2001 to help small businesses improve their spaces. Business owners in any of the city’s 13 business improvement areas can apply once a year for 50/50 funding for improvements to their facades — including murals.

Legally, the onus is on property owners to remove graffiti. There are volunteer groups that help with removal, but professional chemical services can cost hundreds of dollars. This is a huge issue across the city. They all have stories of back alley ways, experimenting with new removal products. It cost Daniels more to have Huffman paint the garage than it would have to simply remove the tagging underneath. But Daniels thinks it’s worth it. He hopes taggers will have respect for the creativity.

Huffman — who was just nominated for City of Hamilton Arts Awards under the categories of established and emerging visual artis — usually works with paints and illustration, but was excited to try street art. Daniels approached him after he was recommended by other local artists. “I’ve always wanted to play with spray paint, but I’m not into doing it illegally. I’m not anti-graffiti, but I’m anti that stuff because it sucks,” Huffman said, pointing to another illegible tag. “But this is a lot of fun. I’d love to do more of it.”

Daniels is not against street art either. In fact, he hopes the mural idea will catch on. By the end of the day, neighboring business owners Chris Crush and Tony Cabral were already showing Huffman their bare walls.

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