Rain drops, Paint drops … with Salsa

20 July 2014 — Saturday threatens rain & delivers on the threat. Who cares, I set out water-proofed where it matters. I’m headed for indoor drops of paint at an art show, little guessing just how many outdoor drops of paint I will see in the course of my subsequent walk.

First stop, Markham St. near Bloor St. West, and the arts market organized by Turtle House Art/Play Centre. I’d never heard of this NGO. I’m intrigued & impressed to learn that it provides free programs specifically designed to support children and parents who have come to Toronto from areas of great conflict. It’s important work, becoming more important with every news headline.

I’m here at the invitation of Poonam Sharma, the architect/artist I first met at the St. James Town Banner Project. I’m delighted to see her again — even more delighted to see, just 1 hour into the show, bright red SOLD dots on two of her paintings.

artist Poonam Sharma

So I bounce back outside in a happy frame of mind, made even happier by the Cuban music animating the other side of the street.

Salsa time! More specifically, rueda de casino salsa, a Cuban variant in which participants dance in groups, not in pairs.

Rueda Project salsa dancers

I talk — between twirls — with a young guy wearing a Rueda Project T-shirt. They’re here from Montreal for the weekend Salsa Festival, just one of 7 festivals throughout the city (from salsa to Chinatown to an Indie racing event), all of them firmly ignoring the weather.

A latte-break with my friend DJ (not Ottawa-DJ, but AGO-DJ), who joined me at the arts market, and then I start wandering my way back south & east toward home. It really is raining now! My boots, my jacket, my camera dry-sack all prove they deserve their waterproof labels; my trekking pants prove they are, as carefully claimed, water-resistant. Damp knees, in other words …

It’s a big old zig-zag that basically takes me south in combinations of streets & alleys lying east of Bathurst Street, a main N/S artery. My route is all by-chance-and-by-whim, and it yields — as I said at the start — surprising amounts of street art.

Also streetscape. Mixes of contemporary infill, renovated old Victorian, unrenovated old Victorian.

A quietly sleek new home that respects the scale of its Victorian neighbours, with suitably artistic chain-link detailing between house & garage …

new home, chain-link for the garage

… and, at the other end of that same tiny street, a vintage garage. “Vintage” being the diplomatic description.

old garage on Croft St.

I like finding scenes like this. They hurtle us back in time.

That’s on a slight jog to the east, soon I’m heading south again, trucking my way down an alley. Where I find an old friend: a POSER bunny!

a POSER bunny, in an alley near Bathurst St.

Not signed (or not that I see), but even I know a POSER bunny when I see one. There’s something about those ears… This particular image makes me think of the Playboy bunny, leaning drunkenly against the wall for support, but pretending he is still so urbane, so in control of the situation.

This same lane, or maybe another one …  Anyway, still dropping southward, and in an alley, with a hit of garage art. This one …

garage art near Harbord & Bathurst

… and this one …

near previous one, Harbord/Bathurst area

… and this one, which I know is by visual artist Emily Kouri, because she signed her name.

Emily Kouri's work, same alley

And another alley, yes those alleys just keep comin’. Not many murals here, but what there is sure catches the eye.

cherry blossoms, perhaps?

It makes me think of Japanese cherry blossom festivals.

Farther down the alley,  a hit of streetscape as opposed to street art. A very battered garage indeed, scrawled over with tags. Ignore that, look instead at the scrollwork near the peak of the roof, and the detail on the peak itself. How elegant this garage must once have been. For horses, perhaps?

once elegant, look at the details

I’m cutting back out to the nearest main street when I see a guy in a hoodie in an open doorway. We talk street art for a moment, and the way city bylaws force building owners to either take responsibility for the graffitis, paint them over, or pay a fine. Then he gives me a tip: Double back to Bathurst St., west side, just north of College. “Three sides of the building. Somebody must have commissioned it. It’s amazing!”

I do not ask for a street number. Pretty sure I’ll be able to pick out the right building.

Gee, do you think this might be it?

Shalak/Smoky work, Bathurst n. of College

I admire it from the south.

south face of the building

Admire it from the north.

north face of the building

Admire details (this one from the north face, around the fish tail near the lower left corner).

detail from north face

Signatures here, so I can give due credit. Big signature on the front door: Clandestinos. Neatly signed high on the north face: Smoky. Shalak. They are respectively Brazilian husband and Chilean wife, now settled here, part of the Clandestinos Crew.

I cross to the east side of Bathurst again, the better to admire the whole thing, and then see a tiny little artistic detail on this side of the street. It is at the south end of some concrete & wood fencing along the sidewalk, right next to Decent Auto Repairs (one taxi turning in, another up on the hoist).

So small, who’d notice, except by luck, I do.

tiny concrete mural by sidewalk across Bathurst

Humility. Respect-love, courage-love.

I think I know a good exit line when I see one.


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  1. This has made a very interesting morning read – what a gift you have with words; you just carry the reader along with you. I like the photos but am prompted to ask whether there are areas in Toronto which have just plain walls?
    IF you have time – what theme do you use? Diana

    • First, I use Comet theme. (And funny, I was just explaining the concept of WordPress themes to someone in an email before I saw your comment.)

      Second, we do have plain walls in the downtown, more likely to be found in upmarket residential areas than in commercial or less prosperous residential. Though the City has this heavy-handed bylaw, it’s also true that there is a lot of City support for mural painting on walls & hoardings, so we see more & more legit work as well as the “uncommissioned.”

  2. Another Wildly creative walk Penny

    • I was so surprised by it! I thought the arts market would be the highlight and then I’d just stomp along in the rain. Became a whole lot more fun than that


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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

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