Sudbury's experience with legal graffiti wall downtown largely positive, report says

While there are still issues with illegal graffiti in the area, the legal graffiti wall downtown has largely been a success, says a report headed to the planning committee this month. (Supplied)

While there are still issues with illegal graffiti in the area, the legal graffiti wall downtown has largely been a success, says a report headed to the planning committee this month.

City councillors passed a bylaw crating the wall in 2018, in part to "help build local capacity and provide an effective means of graffiti abatement and should be contemplated as part of the proposed public art policy."

With the permission of the building owner at 71 Cedar St., the wall was used during the Up Here Festival, which held graffiti workshops.

The wall is regularly painted over, giving graffiti artists a chance to paint anew.

"The owner of 71 Cedar noted a positive experience with the pilot project, with no complaints from the neighbouring properties," the report said.

"The owner expressed that he wished to be notified when artists were proposing to paint the wall, as there has been some incidents around graffiti and vandalization of the property."

Greater Sudbury Police Service initially received complaints about the wall, but no longer send officers to respond, since it is a legal wall.

"However, GSPS has commented that mischief graffiti still happens within downtown and elsewhere in the community," the report said.

"Should the pilot project become permanent, staff would recommend regular updates with GSPS on legal graffiti walls, a more regular repainting schedule, and a consistent application of the legal graffiti wall stencil.

"Regular communication with GSPS and other community partners is key to the success of the legal graffiti wall program."

Officials at Up Here said after the wall was established, there was a significant drop in graffiti on the downtown murals created during the festival.

"Up Here notes the overall experience as positive, recommends regular seasonal painting schedule, and the need for more legal graffiti walls downtown and throughout the community," the report said.

"Local artists have reached out to Up Here expressing gratitude and appreciation for the fact that they now have a legal space to practise. Up Here has observed that the graffiti wall has, in some cases, spilled over its designated boundaries. The festival believes that this serves as proof of the need for more walls downtown, but also in other areas across the city."

As it stands now, there are no city funds to repaint the wall, but the report said the cost could be included in an upcoming public art policy.

"Staff recommends establishing a cap on the number of public legal graffiti walls as well as a service standard (e.g. repainting three times a year) as part of a budget request for the public art program," the report said.

"In the meantime, should a private landowner request a legal graffiti wall, staff recommends that the maintenance costs be the responsibility of the applicant. This would be formalized as part of the Public Art Handbook forms and agreements."

The report recommends two separate ways for a graffiti wall to become legal. In the first, a building owner would apply to make their wall a graffiti wall, along with funding and proposed maintenance plans.

Under that process, the owner of a building with graffiti on it would apply to legalize the graffiti.

"The city would then review the graffiti in consultation with the Public Art Advisory Panel (PAAP)," the report said.

"The PAAP would review the matter, having regard to the Public Art Policy, and would then provide advice to the director of land use planning as to whether the markings should be prohibited as graffiti vandalism, or whether the markings are graffiti art or an art mural.

"The graffiti art or art mural may then be registered in the Public Art Inventory, where established."

Read the full report here.