How to make a utilitarian back lane into a wonderful public amenity.
Walking home from a monthly meeting of a group I joined last year with a few of the other members, I pointed out a street sign for a back lane and mentioned, "I love that sign. I wonder what it is about." They all looked at me with some astonishment and one of the group, Leonard, asked, "You don't know?"
Leonard Luksenberg, Barry's father, took me on a tour. This is all five minutes from where I live and I had no idea it existed. Five years ago, Leonard started the petition to get the name of the lane changed, telling the CBC, "He grew up playing in the park with his friends ... they were constantly going through the laneway to each other's houses."
Last year, two local residents and art lovers, Kim Lesperance and Julian Back, picked up on the idea of beautifying the space by painting over the 18 garage doors, and added a few walls in, too. Brooke Somerleigh organized the artwork; she told the CBC:
"Our vision is making it much brighter and when the kids are there, the awe in their faces when they see the art versus what they've been seeing, which is just, it looks a little run down."
Back and Lesperance had been raising money on a gofundme campaign, and the City of Toronto's StreetARToronto program kicked in money to pay artists and buy supplies. They "support vibrant street art programs in order to reduce graffiti vandalism, encourage active transportation and make laneways more inviting spaces."
In October 2018, 18 artists moved in for the weekend and painted walls and garage doors that had previously been covered in graffiti.
Feel Good Lane is unusual, having a park on one side which really opens it up. This made it perfect for the art project, given that there is a lot more light and a lot less garbage. It really is an inviting space now. It makes the park nicer, and there are more people walking in this lane than I have ever seen, so it clearly is doing its job on the active transportation side.
It's extraordinary what a difference this makes, in the lanes and in the park. Some wonderful artwork, too. I was at a loss for words when I learned about it from Leonard, and still am.