What: Sidewalk carving
Where: King and Simcoe
It took several years for Daniel, a homeless man who spent much of his time near a warm exhaust vent, to carve his relief into the sidewalk at the southeast corner of King and Simcoe.
Using a pen to meticulously chip away the concrete, Daniel, aka Tattoo, created one of Toronto's quirkiest art stops. He'd often paint the sky and clouds around his carved castles to make the art vibrant, and many passersby appreciated his way of removing some grey from our streets.
But last week, at what appears to be the behest of officials at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, which shares the corner with Tattoo's works, the city dispatched someone with a grinder to erase them.
"Would you like them done in front of your house?" asks a spokesperson from St. Andrew's, which has just put up a "No Camping" sign near the patch of pavement where the homeless man made his sidewalk art.
The spokesperson, who doesn't wish to be named, says the church's concern was to remove Daniel and his wife from the street. "These people were sick. They had sores on them," he says, adding, "Most people don't know that the persons were dealing drugs on the corner. The etchings are a minor consideration."
From the city's point of view, "the area had some paint and was considered slippery and a potential trip hazard," says spokesperson Steve Johnston.
Tattoo's work was treated no differently from any other stretch of uneven pavement or a nasty pothole. But the grinding machines have actually left the sidewalk more scarred and treacherous than it was before.
Johnston says a crew will return in warmer weather to resurface the area. He doesn't know the exact cost, but thinks it's not a lot. "It's a pretty routine operation for us," he says.
Matthew Blackett, publisher of Spacing magazine, on whose website saddened admirers of Tattoo's work vented their frustration, says the city's actions were harsh.
"It seems mean-spirited and malicious," said Blackett.
"Those urban folk artworks are the things that make up the mythology of the city," said Blackett. "It's one of those things that happen in the downtown core and endear city living to us."
"This is another example of Toronto's distorted view of culture and art," adds Dave Meslin of the Toronto Public Space Committee. "We should be focusing on the things [like this] that make Toronto unique."
As for Tattoo, his precise whereabout are unknown. Last we heard, the city had found both him and his wife shelter.