Street artists draw on Vancouver’s first legal graffiti wall – BC

After a spike in graffiti vandalism during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new Vancouver City Council initiative in May 2021 has finally given artists a legal space to paint.

Jamie Hardy, also known as the Smokey Devil, was one of the first street performers to break ground on the back alley at 133 West Pender Street.


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“Anyone can come here and draw on the wall at any time without being arrested,” Smokey D told Global News on Sunday.

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After years of campaigning for City Hall, the longtime street artist said he was proud to initiate Vancouver’s first legal graffiti wall.

Jamie Hardy aka Smokey Devil is working on the city of Vancouver’s first sanctioned graffiti wall.

Global News

“I think if someone has a choice to do it legally or do it illegally, legally they’re going to do it right,” Vancouver Coun. Pete Fry to Global News.

“I think it’s long overdue.”

The city of Vancouver saw reports of disruptive graffiti increase by more than 40 percent in 2020, and Fry said the goal of the first sanctioned graffiti wall was to provide a path and an opportunity for graffiti writers to hone their craft.

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“Graffiti is almost like an addiction in a lot of cases — it’s kind of a compulsive risk-reward behavior,” Fry said.

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“I think it offers a way for people to address that coercion, but not necessarily risk some of the circumstances that come with destroying private property.”

The project is coordinated by Trey Helten with the Overdose Prevention Society, which has previously hired street artists to showcase graffiti in downtown Eastside.


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Helten said the Vancouver Native Housing Society has donated their alleyway wall for sanctioned graffiti and community fundraising is underway to support artists with supplies and paint.

“We tried to prioritize Indigenous graff artists,” Helten told Global News.

“All this art here will eventually be covered by other artists.”

Anyone can test their talent on West Pender’s alley wall, and even painting over Smokey D’s work is fair game.

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“If they do, keep going as long as they’re better than me,” Smokey D said.


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Fry said he hopes the concept could potentially attract tourists like Toronto’s Graffiti Alley attraction, where once illegal tags are now prized.

Street artists, meanwhile, say more legal walls would help reduce unwanted graffiti.

“It would reduce all vandalism in the city by at least half,” said Smokey D.

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“I’ve been trying to tell them this for ages, but let’s see how this one works as a prototype or whatever and see how it goes.”

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Smokey D, who said he once served eight months in jail for tagging, wants legal graffiti to be his legacy.

“It feels really special to me that I’ve helped him achieve some of his life goals and that this is available now,” Helten said.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

https://globalnews.ca/news/9063936/vancouver-legal-graffiti-wall/ Street artists draw on Vancouver’s first legal graffiti wall – BC

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