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10th anniversary of the Graffiti Expo

25 Aug 2005

On the weekend of August 19th and 20th, graffiti art was the centerpiece of a ten year old celebration of Hip-Hop culture in Toronto. This celebration was the 416 Graffiti Expo, a public event, organized by REMG Concerts Canada, and other corporate sponsors, where graffiti artists are given wall space to create their art.

During the two day event the parking lot at Queen Street W. and Portland in downtown Toronto was opened to the public and its back wall became a canvas for aerosol art. The organizers invited graffiti artists from across Canada to create their masterpieces. They will be on public display for a year until next year’s Expo. The artists were supplied with free cases of spray paint and scaffolding was even set up so their graffiti pieces could reach their fullest height and potential.

Mediah, a graffiti artist from Toronto has been painting in the 416 graffiti expo since 1998. He’ll continue to participate in the expo to help promote peaceful expression through hip-hop as well as his own work.

“People see that there’s no violence here and that it’s a peaceful event. People see that graffiti is not just for kids. Sometimes they don’t know. Sometimes they’re like ‘wow I thought graffiti was for kids but you’re a professional person with an education and you’re doing a big mural, ’” Mediah said. “It shows more of the skills instead of the gang-oriented graffiti which doesn’t really exist in the city.”

Despite brief periods of rain on Saturday, the expo took on a carnival atmosphere once it got into full gear. The music came from the elevated DJ both, constructed as a giant boom box, where some of Toronto’s most talented DJs like Big Jaxx, DJ Royale, DJ Links, and Son of S.O.U.L. played Hip-Hop, Old School, and Funk. Their infectious grooves were the pulse of the expo that fueled the multiple break-dancing circles.

Their dynamic performance captivated a diverse audience that was a microcosmic reflection of Toronto’s celebrated multiculturalism. The lynolium mat set up for the dancers to execute their spins and power moves, was surrounded by spectators all afternoon. Some of the break-dancers took the traditional Hip-Hop aspect a step further and danced on the cement.

Jonathan Ramos, the president of REMG concerts Canada, had to be reminded by one of his volunteers that the 416 graffiti expo had reached its ten year milestone. His hard work leaves him with little room to reflect on his accomplishments.

“The significance of this being the tenth year is just that it’s been able to happen. The graffiti expo reflects Hip-Hop culture because it’s four equal parts of the culture, and that’s really what it’s about,” Ramos said.

With Hip-Hop culture receiving a constant stream of negative press and a growing sentiment of misunderstanding lately, events like the 416 graffiti expo are examples of its indiscriminate positive creative energy, which are at its core.

Ramos plans on continuing the 416 expo and making it even bigger in the future. “If you’re into Hip-Hop it gives you a great understanding of what hip-hop is a culture. If you’re not into Hip-Hop it also gives you an understanding of what Hip-Hop is, that it’s a culture, it’s not just what you see on TV, it’s not just what you read in the media. You see what goes into it, especially when you’re talking about the graffiti.”

All pictures by Joseph Galiwango