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A Victory for the Caretaker of Dreams
November 3, 2012 8:20 AM   Subscribe

The Caretaker of Dreams Wins The first time the rainbow mysteriously appeared on a tunnel visible from the Don Valley Parkway, the North York parks department painted over it. But the guerrilla mural artist — known as “the Caretaker of Dreams” — persevered, eventually winning them over. Now, 40 years later, the city has officially restored the psychedelic mural that has brought smiles to countless grim commutes — just as the artist intended.
posted by modernnomad (25 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Toronto: Countless Grim Commutes
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:27 AM on November 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


Unfortunately for the Rainbow, in Toronto, official city recognition of your mural -- even the city paying for you to paint it -- is no guarantee the city won't decide it's graffiti and paint it over.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:47 AM on November 3, 2012


As a commuter who passes by the rainbow everyday, this post and The Card Cheat's comments have created a notable moment of existential angst for me. That's definitely how I like to spend my Saturday mornings.
posted by dry white toast at 8:49 AM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


If we're talking about things have have brought smiles to countless grim commutes in Toronto, there was that giant dick someone traced out in the snow in a field north of the Bloor line at Bayview the winter before last, or the mattress lying in the Don Valley with "FUCK HERE" spray painted on it.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:56 AM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Reminds me a bit of this, but the Pink Lady only lasted a week.
posted by HuronBob at 9:02 AM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


More rainbows, and less humourless officials please.
posted by arcticseal at 9:16 AM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I give it a week before some asshat kid sprays his initials on it. Because for every nice moment of humanity, there is always some dickhead waiting to ruin it for the rest of us.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:21 AM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I dunno about ruin, the "suffering from disrepair" image looks better than the restoration to me.
posted by Lorin at 9:36 AM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


An act of guerrilla love is transformed into an officially sanctioned government undertaking, with a $20,000 budget. Existential angst indeed. Meatbomb is unimpressed.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:43 AM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


How many grim commutes could have passed along that little pedestrian walkway?
posted by kenko at 9:48 AM on November 3, 2012


guerrilla love is transformed into an officially sanctioned government undertaking

Perhaps I misunderstand.

If an activist takes it upon themselves to change their community, fights the system, and wins the support of the community so much so that the their changes become officially part of the system, wouldn't this be good?
posted by Hicksu at 9:49 AM on November 3, 2012 [10 favorites]


@kenko It's visible from the Don Valley Parkway: Google Map
posted by SNACKeR at 10:03 AM on November 3, 2012


@Hicksu
>wouldn't this be good

You gotta fight the Man. Man says rainbows doubleplusgood then rainbows bad.
posted by SNACKeR at 10:06 AM on November 3, 2012


No it isn't that. I'd like Canada to be a place where there is a little bit of wiggle room, and the Man didn't have to have his nose in everything. Rainbows are great, and I would have loved it if the authorities just left it alone, or let it be repainted without having to either arrest someone or make it a part of a regional park beautification scheme overseen by bureaucrats. Sorry to vent.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:45 AM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Stories like this always get me thinking. What is it about free art/expression, whatever you want to call it, that so threatens our various humorless officials (who are of course just doing the humorless public will)? And what is is about advertising billboards that don't threaten? Is it just the fact that someone's paid for them, that something is being sold, that there is nothing beautiful and/or mysterious at stake?

I remember being in Berlin a few years after the Wall came down. You'd always know when you were in the former East by the subway stations. They were decorated not with advertising as the West ones were, but art, Socialist Realist stuff. Hammers, sickles, heroes of the revolution. Some of it was actually beautiful which is something the ads of the West never threatened.

Which gets me thinking, in our free, open, western democratic societies, nothing seems more threatening than beauty, particularly the raw, mysterious, unsanctioned kind.

I too prefer the vandalized "disrepair" version of the rainbow to the cleaned up, officially sanctioned one. But don't trust me. If I had my way, this is what most of my downtown would look like.
posted by philip-random at 10:52 AM on November 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


A rainbow over a pedo tunnel might be seen as making a case that foot traffic is not as plebeian as the car culture would like it to be.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:52 AM on November 3, 2012




See also the Waldo Tunnels in Marin County, CA. (As seen in the movie "Dirty Harry".)
posted by chavenet at 11:01 AM on November 3, 2012


the mattress lying in the Don Valley with "FUCK HERE" spray painted on it.

In the UK Charles Saachi would pay a small fortune to have that in his gallery.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 11:06 AM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


A rainbow over a pedo tunnel

Wow, I definitely misread this for a sec. I hadn't thought of a rainbow tunnel as potentially creepy until then...
posted by limeonaire at 11:41 AM on November 3, 2012


"Which gets me thinking, in our free, open, western democratic societies, nothing seems more threatening than beauty, particularly the raw, mysterious, unsanctioned kind."

Perhaps because it is not easily commodified. (Re the Socialist Realist stuff, some is beautiful, yes, but not for its own sake: it was driven by the totalitarian socialist imperative, faced by artists in the erstwhile Soviet sphere, that all art must "serve the people", with that service conveniently defined by the ruling elites. Run afoul of those definitions, and you faced sanctions as least as harsh as any imposed by Western bureaucracies and markets. Just ask any number of Soviet and Eastern European artists, writers, & musicians, e.g., Prague's Plastic People of the Universe.)

It reminds me of a W.B. Yeats quote (Poetry and Tradition, 1907):

Three types of men have made all beautiful things. Aristocracies have
made beautiful manners, because their place in the world puts them above
the fear of life, and the countrymen have made beautiful stories and
beliefs, because they have nothing to lose and so do not fear, and the
artists have made all the rest, because Providence has filled them with
recklessness. All these look backward to a long tradition, for, being
without fear, they have held to whatever pleased them. The others being
always anxious have come to possess little that is good in itself, and
are always changing from thing to thing, for whatever they do or have
must be a means to something else, and they have so little belief that
anything can be an end in itself, that they cannot understand you if
you say, 'All the most valuable things are useless.' They prefer the
stalk to the flower, and believe that painting and poetry exist that
there may be instruction, and love that there may be children, and
theatres that busy men may rest, and holidays that busy men may go on
being busy. At all times they fear and even hate the things that have
worth in themselves, for that worth may suddenly, as it were a fire,
consume their book of Life, where the world is represented by cyphers
and symbols; and before all else, they fear irreverent joy and
unserviceable sorrow. It seems to them, that those who have been freed
by position, by poverty, or by the traditions of Art, have something
terrible about them, a light that is unendurable to eyesight. They
complain much of that commandment that we can do almost what we will, if
we do it gaily, and think that freedom is but a trifling with the world.


Of course, as noted above, the SF Bay Area has had a commuter rainbow for a long time (framing the entrance to the tunnel in the Marin hillside on the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge), and in the context of that area's culture it's rather ho-hum, and additionally, there's Robin Williams' cynical quip that it's an "ethnic detector", Marin being pretty white, Marin City notwithstanding. I don't know the early history of that one, though.
posted by Philofacts at 11:59 AM on November 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


When the rainbow and I were both still in our youth, my folks and I frequently visited family in Etobicoke, and going past that tunnel was my favourite part of the drive. That particular part of the burbs is already kind of a surreal liminal landscape, paved but also grassy, hilly and twisty, and it seemed like just the right touch to push it over in to the slightly fantastical. I'd often imagine where it might have led. As an adult it saddened me each time I'd pass it unpainted/painted over - which, if memory serves, it did for years at one point. I'm unreasonably happy to see it restored.

An act of guerrilla love is transformed into an officially sanctioned government undertaking, with a $20,000 budget. Existential angst indeed.

As soon as I saw that figure in the article, I knew there'd be a MeFi comment just like this. Remember: that's $20 grand for rebuilding the East Don Trail, a large project of which the rainbow is a small part. Most of the money is probably going to pedestrian realm improvements, repairs to tunnels and bridges, maybe cycling infrastructure or other non-profits working with youth like the one mentioned. For a capital project in a city whose annual budget is measured in billions, $20,000 is small change.

The way the City works, this was probably spearheaded by some keeners halfway up the city staff ladder who spend a lot of their time trying to get resources in the hands of people who do things like this, and maneouvering around other staff who'd like to stop them. Toronto City Hall is one of the largest governments in Canada, and the idea that it's all just one big uniform Boredom Machine isn't only untrue, but impossible.
posted by Mike Smith at 12:24 PM on November 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


From back in the day, and probably still there.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waldo_Grade
posted by mule98J at 1:07 PM on November 3, 2012


I'm never really on the DVP, but this is my favorite piece of graffiti/public art from my grim Toronto commute.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:41 PM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


philip-random: "And what is is about advertising billboards that don't threaten? Is it just the fact that someone's paid for them, that something is being sold, that there is nothing beautiful and/or mysterious at stake? "

Want an honest answer? It's the officialness of it. Has nothing to do with the fact that something is being sold. Think about the times when companies have done guerrilla marketing, spraypainting company logos on the sidewalks, releasing huge numbers of balloons, etc. The government gets just as pissed when that happens.
posted by Bugbread at 9:20 PM on November 4, 2012


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