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The Buff in Vancouver

May 10, 2005

Janna from Style in Progress sent us a link to a fascinating article in Toronto’s NOW Magazine about the Vancouver city government’s plan to send out “clean teams” to buff out all graffiti in the city — including permission walls and commissioned pieces:

The targets Any and all public spaces, including spaces already transformed by city-sponsored graffiti projects and privately owned buildings on which the owner has given artists permission to paint. Talk about a whitewash….
Who’s to say what’s art anyway? City politicians. They’ll have the final say should business owners refuse to comply with cleanup orders – yes, the same politicians more interested in pacifying residents concerned about property values than in the cultural and social significance of graffiti.
Why it all smells like coercion The city is threatening to fine businesses that refuse to take part in the cleanup, or do the cleanup itself and then add the costs to business owners’ property tax bill. In other words, you can pay now or you can pay later.

What makes the article great is that the reporter asked local workers and residents for their opinions on the graf and their responses are mostly positive. For example, a store manager says: “I wouldn’t consider it an eyesore. In fact, it brings people to the area. If the city ordered us to remove it, I’d have a problem with that.” Big difference from the usual discussions about buffing graffiti in NYC.
Janna was interviewed for the article and counters the cliche that all graffiti is gang-related. A representative from the Toronto Public Space Committee gets the last word:

What a waste of resources to go after kids with markers while companies like Viacom and Pattison Outdoor Advertising are erecting massive illegal billboards and murals all across Toronto. The rule seems to be that defacement is a crime unless you’re wearing a suit and work for an ad firm.

Couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Read the full article here. Check out Style in Progress for a great look at graffiti north of the border, and check out the Toronto Public Space Committee, a group that’s new to me and is doing wonderfully admirable work.


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3 comments on “The Buff in Vancouver”

yo, this is some sick shit. this gives new meaning to the term “style wars.” they are basically instituting a ban on an artistic style/ aesthetic. they might as well just ban impressionism. i usually dont like throwing the word fascist around litely. but… PINCHE FASCISTAS, DEDASOS DE MIERDA AL CARAJO!

The buff is going strong, partly because we have the olympics coming in 2010 and they want to get a head start. And they do not “white wash” everything, they “hospital green” everything or “gray wash” everything.
Check out what I have on the site to see what is still up and the new artists who are still working hard.

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