Thursday, October 27, 2016Light Rain 2°C

Tree planters serve as the seeds for street art

Posted by Derek Flack / May 23, 2011

Street art tree planters TorontoSometimes street art is what a city needs. To beautify. To revitalize. Sometimes the broken windows theory is just about broken windows. Ideology. You know, that thing that says that any unauthorized intervention must be unreasoned or some sort of zealousness — misplaced desire.


Nice things do happen. Sometimes. You know, when Lego fills a crack not covered by some tax. When the city sort of heals itself, even if only when it comes to the band-aid-worthy wounds. Yeah, this is gushy stuff, but here's what I like about Toronto's latest guerrilla street art project: it's productive, fun, and, for the most part, unpretentious.

street art planters torontoAs of Monday morning, over 20 refurbished concrete street planters can be found throughout the city's west end (mostly around Queen and University and Bloor and Lansdowne), all of which take something putatively broken and make it better again. Here's how the curator of the project, Sean Martinadale, describes the work:

"The overarching project is called "Outside the Planter Boxes", and it's intended to highlight some of the neglected city tree planter boxes that line our busy streets by staging a number of creative interventions. These planters are generally made of concrete and many are cracked or missing large chunks (see images)...

street art planters torontoTo be clear, this project is not about pointing fingers... We all have stakes in our shared environments, and this public project will directly engage with Toronto's urban fabric. One of the primary intents of this 'Outside the Planter Boxes' project is to encourage more direct participation and interest in our shared public spaces — to demonstrate that the public can play a more consciously active role in how our city is shaped..."

Martindale received Toronto FEAST Project Grant earlier this year, which allowed him to rally the dozen or so artists who participated in the project. And while it's a little tough to pick favourites, I have to say that Martin's Reis' Lego sculpture near Bloor and Lansdowne hit all the right notes for me. Somewhat reminiscent of Invader's mosaics, the artist told me by email that his main inspiration is the work of Jan Voorman, who's done similar Lego-style explosions in other cities. I'm also fond of the planter spilling over with sod and the simple "fragile" tape intervention.

Although the City of Toronto didn't authorize these projects in anyway, one suspects that they will challenge simple notions of vandalism. After all, you can say what you want about street art and public/private property, but these constructive interventions are the very stuff of engaged urbanism.

Additional photos








2011522-street-lego-before.jpgPhotos supplied by Sean Martindale and Martin Reis. More info on each artist to come



LegoLover / May 23, 2011 at 10:57 am
This brings pleasant feelings to know that people appreciate the little things in life. I love the Lego concept, creative yet sentimental enough to bring out the child in each of us.
Rena / May 23, 2011 at 11:30 am
This gave me such a smile for a rainy morning! Absolutely lovely. I live in Koreatown and have been absolutely loving the Asian-inspired paintings on all the planters along Bloor, east of Christie.

We need more stuff like this in our city!
Rachel / May 23, 2011 at 11:49 am
This is great! Yet another reason why I love Toronto.
Aldrin / May 23, 2011 at 11:50 am
Great post and really cool concept
Terry / May 23, 2011 at 12:15 pm
Cool, original pieces :-)
Justin / May 23, 2011 at 03:36 pm
Awesome concept!
Mika / May 23, 2011 at 07:42 pm
I love this! Such a great idea, and very well done. I hope they’re around for a couple of days so I can see them!
Does anyone know where the lego one and the grass pouring out of the planter one are?
Deb / May 23, 2011 at 10:49 pm
Mika, I just scanned the article and the Lego one is near Bloor and Lansdowne. I HAVE to tell my boyfriend about this, he's going to freak as he's a HUGE Lego fan.

And Rena, I totally agree, the paintings in Koreatown are beautiful and I snapped a bunch of photos while the painting was actually going on last May! Obviously not of the people painting, but of the finished product.

I love this, totally awesome. I take photos of graffiti art around the city and I'm going to look out for these now :D
Andrew / May 23, 2011 at 11:40 pm
"Sometimes the broken windows theory is just about broken windows. Ideology. You know, that thing that says that any unauthorized intervention must be unreasoned or some sort of zealousness — misplaced desire."

Did anyone else just give up on the article at this point?
G / May 24, 2011 at 12:56 am
The Lego is brilliant!
Bentley replying to a comment from Mika / May 24, 2011 at 12:50 pm
Unfortunately the Lego piece was absconded sometime during its first night on display however the gooey grasses were still out last night. Look for them on the west side of University between Queen and Dundas.
Bob / May 24, 2011 at 02:19 pm
Where are these? Especially the crying stump? Such excellent work!

Although the lego piece is a little too reminiscent of Jan Vormann's work.
Art is Vandalism / May 24, 2011 at 03:16 pm
to think someone is marking up these city bought concrete holders with art!
someone get the pressure washers, as I don't think any of these were city approved!
Lorne / May 28, 2011 at 05:39 pm
@Art is Vandalism: if you're being ironic here, it is not too funny and if you are saying what you really think I can only say i can't understand your point of view
Newlypamella / December 29, 2011 at 03:41 am
you definitely love to get new coupon suprisely
Other Cities: Montreal