Get your eyes on some of the city’s best street art, graffiti and murals in this boho west end Toronto neighbourhood.
Parkdale is a neighbourhood of artists. As in, it’s where artists live. When I first moved here 20 years ago, I was like many of them: seeking cheap rent and the best Caribbean roti in the city. Over the years, I’ve watched this community of many cultures change into a place where you can also get fancy French pastries and designer handbags.
But the art has remained. And most of it is outside, for free. Take a stroll along Queen Street West between Dufferin Street and Roncesvalles Avenue and you’ll experience some of Toronto’s best and most diverse street art. It’s ever changing, but here are some of my current favourites.
The Murals of Milky Way
Tucked south of Queen Street West between Dufferin Street and Cowan Avenue, this laneway is a galaxy of colour. Local artists have left their mark in a mix of styles, from wild-style graffiti and murals, to smaller-scale cartoons.
Two of my faves: New York artist Buff Monster visited Milky Way and painted a giant ice cream monster—one of his signature “melty” characters. Nearby, a wooden fence is covered in friendly dancing vegetables. Behind it is a community garden tended mainly by women in an ESL program at the Parkdale branch of the Toronto Public Library, which you might not know existed if the artwork didn’t draw your attention. It’s a great example of street art revealing what we call #parkdalelife.
Black Artists on Brock
The BAND Gallery is a cultural centre dedicated to showcasing Black artists. In addition to their gallery at 19 Brock Avenue, they maintain an outdoor exhibition on the fence surrounding their property. Currently, passers-by can view a selection of photographs by Dawit Tibebu, from his exhibit Freedom Fighters: Ethiopia.
This bright red mural is one of the newest—it appeared near 6 Noble Street in the middle of the pandemic. The tribute to front-line workers by illustrator Natalie Very B. contains the message “Stronger Together.”
Women Paint TO
Women are often under-represented in street art. So it’s a treat to explore an entire alley covered in images of sisterhood, divine womanly bodies and shapes. This series of murals just north of Queen Street West between Lansdowne Avenue and MacDonnell Avenue was organized by Women Paint back in 2017. There is a bold feminist point of view, and diversity of subjects representing the multicultural makeup of Parkdale. The showstopper? A mother and baby in a traditional Indigenous cradleboard in front of a glowing city skyline, by artists Aura and Chief Lady Bird.
This is My First Home Since I Left Home
As you stroll through Parkdale you’ll notice short poetic messages in neon colours on the sides of buildings. “PATIENCE AND PASSION SIDE BY SIDE” on a Tibetan momo take-out spot. “MAKE SPACE FOR MAGIC” beside a vegetable garden. Created from coloured duct tape by artist Mark Reinhart, they first appeared as part of the SummerWorks festival in 2020. One that sticks with me is “THIS IS MY FIRST HOME SINCE I LEFT HOME” at Queen Street West and Dowling Avenue, near the Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC). I’ve witnessed how PARC cares for the most vulnerable members of Parkdale. Reinhart’s art is a direct quote from one of them, and a reminder that this neighbourhood is, and will always be, home to people from different walks of life.
Lovebot Tribute to Keith Haring
Torontonians have truly fallen for Matthew Del Degan’s “Lovebots.” These robot figures with a red heart logo can be spotted all over the city but the large one lurking on the side of a house at 43 Triller Avenue (near Queen Street West and Roncesvalles Avenue) is extraordinary. Its black and white design is a tribute to the late Keith Haring, one of the most influential modern street artists.
Getting to Parkdale
- Take the 501 Queen streetcar to the Lansdowne Avenue or Dufferin Street stops
- Or, take the Line 2 Bloor-Danforth subway to Lansdowne station, and then the 47 Lansdowne bus southbound to Queen Street West
- Or, take the Line 2 Bloor-Danforth subway to Dufferin, and then the 29 Dufferin bus southbound to Queen Street West