Since I also always scout out the up and coming art galleries in every city I visit, when I asked for the list of local galleries, Graffiti Art Gallery was on it.
As soon as I saw it, I thought “this is a must visit.” An entire art gallery dedicated to graffiti? This is something I have to see.
Getting there wasn’t exactly an easy charter since I didn’t have a car that day nor did I really know the city all that well. I suppose I could have jumped in a cab and said “Corner of Gomez and Higgins please,” but that would have been far too easy.
And so, I did what I rarely do anymore…I jumped on a bus and then walked.
They were about to close when I arrived but said I could still take a peak at some of the art being exhibited on the walls.
The gallery is not quite a traditional gallery. Upstairs which is where you enter the main building and back offices only has a narrow beam that stretches around the top of the floor where you walk. It was here along the wall where the art was displayed.
Downstairs they had more art displayed on the walls and surrounding “them” was an open floor space for exhibitions I assumed…
Not quite The gallery is part of Graffiti Art Programming Inc., which is much more than a gallery. The group is a not-for-profit community youth art centre, where they teach kids to use art as a tool for building community, social, economic and individual growth. It is the only one of its kind in North America for artists of all ages and genres from traditional art, to urban art (including hip hop art, graffiti art, street art), to Aboriginal art, to contemporary art, to performance art.
When I talked to the manager on-site at the time, she explained that graffiti was really a way of life – it wasn’t just expression through spray painting walls and buildings. She says, “it’s a lifestyle and Graffiti Art Gallery represents everything that this lifestyle is about – hip hop, street art, urban art, dance, performance art and more.”
It turns out that they were about to have a free form break dance competition that afternoon and evening and she invited me to stay.
How can you pass up an offer like that? Who wouldn’t want to stay and watch a bunch of talented kids perform, show off their art through body movement and energizing rhythm.
And so, since I’m not quite 22, a break dancer nor was I dressed remotely like one, I figured I had to do something so I’d blend in a tad more. I put my hair in a pony tail, put my jean jacket on, rolled up my jeans, tied my scarf around my waste, pulled out my camera and sat Indian style on the floor while I waited for the activities to start. Everyone else who showed up to watch was in their early twenties and likely a friend or family member of someone performing. And me, the yank trying to look 22 on the floor with her Canon 7D, beaming with joy for accidentally have fallen upon one of the most interesting ideas I’ve heard about in a long time.
They also offer youth programs for free while trying to create and maintain a safe, supportive and open door environment. Their classes also aim to develop and enhance capacity building skills, and abilities that encourages self esteem, work ethic and work experience while fostering a sense of creative cooperation and self healing. I love the idea and the people I met who work there and ‘play’ there.
Below are some shots I took on-site.
The same weekend, they were having an annual contest where 30 or so graffiti artists painted for a full day on a wall space. Be sure to check out my photos from the day’s event as well as my video chat with Artistic Director Pat Lazo who talked about the history of the event and the gallery. Below is the video I shot of the performers: