Homeless in Vancouver: Graffiti is in the eye of the property holder

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      The job that a building in Fairview recently did labelling its brand new Vancouver grey garbage bins brought to mind lululemon founder Chip Wilson paying taggers to tag, oops, paint a mural on the seawall of his Kitsilano property.

      I agree there are times when it makes sense to hire a real graffiti tagger. The owner of this building would have been better off hiring one to label the building’s bins. A tagger would’ve known when and how to to use a a spray can, or a metallic marker. The result would be as clean and legible as they wanted it to be, unlike the uncontrolled mess the building owner made.

      Messy and illegible, but not graffiti.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine
      I think what the building owner did to the shiny new grey bins is far more unsightly than any of the tagging on the surrounding dumpsters and walls—which I’m not fond of either, but I also understand that the building is entitled; ownership is the ultimate permission.
      It's purposely obscure, but it's a precise graffiti tag.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine
      That brings me back to Chip. When I saw photos, like this one, of the so-called mural that Chip commissioned taggers to paint on his Kitsilano property’s seawall, it just looked like tagging to me—elaborate to be sure—but graffiti tagging all the same.

      How, I asked myself, is that a mural? Was it a case that when taggers uncap their spray cans for free it’s unsightly graffiti, but when they get paid to do the exactly same thing, it’s a mural, which is a lot closer to saying it’s art? Money talks but sometimes it’s hard to understand what it’s saying. When I think about it though, that’s what British street artist Banksy has been proving for years.

      Chip Wilson is saying that he’s encouraging good graffiti to forestall the bad kind. His intent is not to vandalize but to beautify. And while Vancouver seems to be acting the stickler for details like proper permits and such, it seems that Toronto actually makes legal allowances for the kind of action Chip has taken.

      The City of Toronto’s website has a page titled Graffiti Art/Art Mural Exemption that describes a review process by which a property owner can have “markings” declared mural art after the fact, and have a notice of violation reversed by a graffiti panel.

      “City of Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 485, Graffiti allows for regularization of an art mural or graffiti art when it is installed with the property owner’s permission, adheres to community character and standards, and aesthetically enhances the surface that it covers.”

      I haven’t found a similar provision in Vancouver's municipal laws. I don’t think there is one, but I may not have looked hard enough. Vancouver does have it’s Spread the Paint program, which encourages and assists neighbourhoods to come together to paint over offending graffiti. Depending how things turn out, the City of Vancouver might end up encouraging Chip’s neighbours to spread some paint.

      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer.



      Lynne Stopkewich

      Nov 21, 2013 at 2:24pm

      FYI, spray painting the bins is not allowed. The bins are owned by the City of Vancouver and basically "rented" by the homeowner (through the yearly fees/taxes paid for the specific bin).

      From the City website: "Once you have your new garbage or green bin, write your address in the white space provided on the lid.
      Bins are the property of the City of Vancouver, and must remain reusable. Bins are permanently damaged if they are marked outside of the designated white space on the lid. Replacing damaged bins increases the cost of service for customers."

      Interesting to note: if you have no (or smaller volume) garbage or recycling service pick-up, you don't pay those fees or they are lower. It's the City's way to encourage composting and recycling. It's also why I try to leave major unrecyclable packaging, which takes up valuable space in my garbage bin, with the retailer. Think: styrofoam used to pack electronics, or just about everything fragile.

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