Hamilton collaborates with graffiti artists in a bid to curb illegal art


Published June 5, 2023 at 4:25 pm

The Lester Coloma Ferguson Station mural which is featured on Steeltown Tours' Urban Green Spaces and Outdoor Art tour. — photo courtesy Jamie Stuckless Consulting Inc.

Graffiti and murals can be captivating and contribute to a city’s cultural vibrancy transforming blank walls into visual works of art. Hamilton has its fair share of street art and murals, however, the city has seen a significant rise in illegal graffiti in recent years.

Data shared by the City of Hamilton reveals that in 2022, 344 complaints were filed regarding unauthorized street art. The problem shows no signs of abating, with 84 complaints already registered in the first four months of 2023.

Furthermore, as warmer months approach, the City anticipates a surge in such incidents, following the patterns observed in previous years.

Of particular concern to many is the concentration of illegal graffiti in Wards 2, 3, and 4, and these areas have been disproportionately affected, bearing the brunt of unauthorized street art within the city limits, the City of Hamilton told intheHammer.com.

Peter Fortune, Hamilton’s Manager of Placemaking and Public Art Hamilton, suggests that the prolonged period of pandemic-related restrictions may have contributed to the surge in graffiti.

“My theory is that people have been cooped up in a pandemic for quite a while. So now there’s a desire to do artistic expression,” Fortune said.

He also acknowledges the issues arising from unauthorized graffiti on private property.

“Because the cost to remove it, especially when it is not appreciated, falls on the private property owner most of the time.”

As a part of the prevention efforts,  local artists are also being pursued to head to designated graffiti zones where individuals can lawfully channel their creativity.

Hamilton has already sanctioned two walls for graffiti which are located at the Keddy Access Trail and Woodview Park. According to Fortune, the City is exploring a third space for legal graffiti at Beasley Park.

“You want a wall that can actually be easily painted over, you don’t want one with too much texture,” he said.

“We work with members of the community to sus out where a good location (for legal graffiti zones) would be. It’s very much a technical consideration.”

Fortune’s role is to find locations that don’t present safety issues for people working there with regard to pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

The City also collaborates with local street artists and organizations to help make room for graffiti in the public space. One such organization is Concrete Canvas which holds a multi-day visual arts festival where local and international artists gather in Hamilton to paint murals across the city while simultaneously inspiring a new generation of artists.

“Street art of course has an element of rebelliousness to it and you don’t want to kill that off entirely,” Fortune said.

“It needs that kind of impromptu notion to function; to be real and to thrive. But at the same time you need to ensure that the community needs to be respected in a public space,” he added.

According to its graffiti management strategy report, the City has enhanced the presence of security cameras in high-risk areas and improved lighting infrastructure to deter artists.

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