Graffiti artists still leaving their mark

The broken windows theory is gospel among those who would coax order out of the natural chaos of urban life

The broken windows theory is gospel among those who would coax order out of the natural chaos of urban life. It says that visual signs of disorder — broken windows, busted fences, graffiti — feed urban decay until cities are set ablaze by a torrent of gang violence and hooliganism. This is what some people see when they look at graffiti.

Others see artistic expression — urban life and personal struggle sprayed onto a wall for everyone to experience — and it’s these people who have embraced Victoria’s thriving graffiti scene for the past 30 years. “Graffiti in Victoria has always been a way for marginalized youth to have a voice, to co-opt visual space and the world around them,” says one local graffiti writer. “There’s not very many instances where you’ll have a group of young kids asking for a place to do their art and asking for space in the community to have their voice heard.” Tarnishing its hard-earned reputation as the City of Flowers, the capital’s graffiti scene is one of the oldest and well-respected in Canada, even managing to hold its own against massive urban centres like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

Showcasing Victoria’s contribution to Canadian graffiti, Adam Melnyk’s new book — Visual Orgasm: The Early Years of Canadian Graffiti — catalogues some of the people who ushered in Victoria’s graffiti culture and paved the way for dozens of other local artists in the scattered but vibrant scene of the mid ’80s and ’90s. “Canadian graffiti is interesting in that it kinda happened in pockets across the country, so that’s why in the book we have features on different cities,” says Melnyk. “Those are really the cities where things happened.”

Despite Victoria’s relative status amongst mainland Canadians, official support for local writers has been sparse at best. “There were dozens of walls where graffiti was either legal or tolerated,” remembers one writer as we admire a piece at Wild Fire bakery, one of the last remaining mostly free walls in the city. With places like the Trackside Gallery long gone, local graffiti culture has been pushed back under bridges and into alleys, tucking away the art that could help define the capital. M

Check out the Visual Orgasm book launch Friday, Dec. 9, 7 to 9 p.m. at Higher Ground Clothing (760 Yates).

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Orca 1
Orcas: Our Shared Future

Royal BC Museum dives into the world of orcas with upcoming feature exhibition

Frank Ludwig in a forklift with his long hair during Trooper’s heyday. (Photo submitted)
Humble Island beginnings blossomed into storied career for Trooper keyboardist

Frank Ludwig got his start as a boy pumping the organ in a tiny downtown Chemainus church

Joan Miller with the Vancouver Island North Regional Film Commission says there’s much room for optimism in the region rebounding from COVID-19 and is excited about what the future holds for the region. Black Press File Photo
North Island film industry optimistic about post-COVID rebound

Interest in filming here is still high, according to film commission, once things open back up

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, has been filming in Langford and Colwood over the past two weeks. On April 7, filming will take place on the east side of the Esquimalt Lagoon. (Black Press Media file)
Netflix series ‘Maid’ filming in Colwood

10-episode Warner Bros. production filmed exclusively in Greater Victoria

Lantzville singer Raymond Salgado will sing ‘O Canada’ before the Vancouver Canucks’ upcoming game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 17. (Photo submitted)
Lantzville singer to perform ‘O Canada’ at Vancouver Canucks game

Raymond Salgado scheduled to sing the anthem at Rogers Arena later this month

Nanaimo children’s entertainer Steve Romanik, represented by his character Mountain Dweller, is giving away his songs and stories to help raise money for children’s causes. (Photo courtesy Steve Romanik)
Nanaimo children’s entertainer ‘Mountain Dweller’ helping raise money for kids’ causes

Steve Romanik partnering with Nanaimo Child Development Centre, B.C. Children’s Hospital

“Racing Classics” by John Horton depicts sailboats near Trial Island off the coast of Oak Bay. The painting will be featured in his <em>Maritime Impressions</em> exhibit at the Winchester Gallery until April 14.
Greater Victoria galleries beckon spring with vibrant, whimsical nature scenes

At The Galleries: look at what’s on display this month

‘We Are All Beautiful’ by Elise Cole and ‘The Modern Thrall’ by Enigye (Happy) Amarkah (from left) are two of the pieces featured in VIU’s Anti-Racism Arts Festival. (Images courtesy the artists)
Vancouver Island University holds first Anti-Racism Arts Festival

Three-day online event to feature visual arts, performance, film and poetry

Thomas Kuecks, Bellamy Kuecks and Paula Foot have come together to create an album of stories for children. (Nina Foot photo)
Moments with Miss Paula creates musical stories for kids

Music and the spoken word from Island pair available on streaming

Author Eden Robinson poses for a portrait during an interview in Toronto, Wednesday, May 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Trickster trilogy author Eden Robinson hosts online conversation and reading

Haisla and Heiltsuk will join fans in event hosted by Vancouver Island Regional Library

Nanaimo author Lawrence Winkler’s latest book is ‘The Last Casebook of Doctor Sababa.’ (Bulletin file photo/supplied)
Nanaimo author wraps up trilogy following ‘antihero’ Island doctor

Lawrence Winkler presents ‘The Last Casebook of Doctor Sababa’

‘Frank Ney’ by Patrick Flavin, ‘Millstone River Upper Falls’ by John Collison Baker, ‘Labyrinth of Dreams’ by MA Molcan, ‘On the Other Side’ by Liana Ravensbergen, ‘December Snow’ by Laurel Karjala and ‘Jacks Point’ by Dana Smiley (cropped, clockwise from top-left) are among the works in the Nanaimo Arts Council’s latest exhibition. (Photos courtesy Nanaimo Arts Council)
Nanaimo Arts Council presents its first online gallery show

Submissions now open for upcoming ‘Ekphrastic Celebration’ show

Dorothy Sevcov’s exhibition ‘Having Fun With Acrylics’ is on display at Art 10 Gallery until the end of the month. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Experimental paintings now on exhibit at Nanaimo’s Art 10 Gallery

Dorothy Sevcov’s ‘Having Fun With Acrylics’ on display through April

Most Read