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New laneway murals to showcase ‘Grit’ and strength of El Mocambo, Chinatown and Kensington neighbourhoods

Abdul Mannan
A new series of murals and graffiti art themed ‘Grit’ will celebrate the resilience demonstrated by local businesses and the surrounding communities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The laneway mural project, launching today, will also illustrate the strength and history of the Chinatown and Kensington neighbourhoods, and showcase the resurgence of the legendary El Mocambo music venue.

The murals can be found in the laneway behind El Mocambo (464 Spadina Ave.), on the west side of Spadina Avenue south of College Street in Toronto starting today. The Grit laneway project has been delivered in partnership with the City of Toronto’s StreetARToronto program, local businesses including El Mocambo and Gwartzman’s Art Supplies, and the Chinatown Business Improvement Area (BIA).

The 24 murals in the series were conceptualized and painted by 25 diverse local street, mural and graffiti artists – many of whom have painted murals in the laneway for years, if not decades.

Artists interpreted the theme in their own way and were challenged to use a sandpaper grit colour palette to link their artwork with that of adjacent artists. With nearly three decades of artwork production on the streets, Amos Danniels (a.k.a. ‘SIGHT’) led the project as co-curator and project manager, along with Project Coordinator Nishina Loft.

El Mocambo, which has hosted world famous rock bands such as The Police, Rolling Stones, U2 and Elvis Costello, has been mostly closed to the public since 2014 to undergo significant renovations. A grand public reopening celebration of this historic Toronto landmark is scheduled for October 30 and this project represents one of the many launch-events leading up to the venue’s reopening.

Murals completed through this project are part of the ArtworxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art 2021-2022, a year-long celebration of art and community.

StreetARToronto (StART) is an initiative of the City and includes a suite of innovative city-building programs intentionally designed to showcase, celebrate and support street, mural and graffiti artists and art throughout Toronto. StART’s suite of nine programs, career development ladder, and skills building pipeline provide artists and curators with an integrated system of support and professional development that is positioning Toronto as a centre for street, mural and graffiti art. StART programs and projects are rooted in values that demonstrate the positive and powerful impacts of diversity, representation and inclusion.

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