Metro/Heather McIntyre The back of the Tire Craft building at 100 Street and Whyte Avenue, seen Wednesday, has been tagged and vandalized in the past, but could have a whole new look this fall as one of three new open source street art walls.

Over the years, Norm Hachey has gotten used to graffiti vandalism, as it has covered the back wall of his Whyte Avenue Tire Craft shop on many occasions.

But now he’s looking forward to the location being a target for graffiti street art.

The shop, at 10021 82 Avenue, will be one of three new open source street art walls forming a two-year pilot project to provide legal sites with safety guidelines for street artists to practice on.

“We weren’t sure that it wouldn’t create more problems,” said Hachey. “But it (could) make the place look nice, for sure.”

The project is a partnership between the City of Edmonton’s Capital City Clean Up and the Edmonton Arts Council, who want to kick things off with artist-led workshops in September before opening the walls up to the community.

But prior to that, public consultations will be held in each of the three neighbourhoods next week, and graffiti audits and crime prevention by environmental design studies are also underway, said Sharon Chapman, graffiti project manager for Capital City Clean Up.

Edmonton currently has one free wall – established in 2002 where the LRT emerges from underground between Churchill and Stadium stations – and it’s something both the city and the arts council noted they wanted more of in the Art of Living, published in 2007.

“There have been calls over the last number of years for additional sites for artists to work, but with the bylaw in place to deter graffiti vandalism we’ve been hesitant to expand the program without understanding what impact free walls can have in the community,” said Chapman.

A bylaw established in 2008 requires property owners to remove graffiti vandalism or face a fine. At that time, Capital City Clean Up’s Graffiti Management Program was initiated, which has led to support and other programs to deter the crime – and it’s been working, said Chapman.

Although the goal is to reduce and prevent graffiti vandalism, the city does recognize the artistic and cultural value of graffiti street art.

“It’s public art,” said Dawn Saunders Dahl, project officer with the Edmonton Arts Council. “The definite hope is that we’re providing a safe area for both the artists and the visitors.”

Along with providing safe locations where artists can paint without fear of criminal charges, the project includes a plan to remove any offensive graffiti, as well as any tags or vandalism within a 250-foot radius of each free wall.

“To see the pilot project become permanent locations, it’s all up to the street artists to ensure they use the sites properly,” said Saunders Dahl. “I have high hopes that there will be more permanent locations in Edmonton, though – we’ll need some in the north end.”

 Open Source Street Art Wall Locations:

  • Back of the Tire Craft Building located at 10021 82 Avenue
  • CN overpass bridge abutment on 63 Avenue between 99 Street and Gateway
  • Tweddle Place tennis court building next to Edith Rogers Junior High School

 Public Involvement:

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