TD Toronto Jazz Festival: Groove & Graffiti- Bringing art, hip-hop and jazz together.
Groove and Graffiti is aerosol based workshop that gives students across the G.T.A a chance to express themselves along the inspiration of music. For the last nine years the TD Toronto Jazz Festival and two of Toronto’s most accomplished artists, Mediah and Elicser, have been using graffiti, art, and music to translate student’s creative vibes into tangible pieces that get displayed in Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto every year. After learning about Groove and Graffiti and experiencing the presentation of the project I left Nathan Phillips Square with a new appreciation for the TD Toronto Jazz Festival as well as a tan.
I was more than a little skeptical upon entering the designated area for the Jazz’s festivals performances last weekend- here was a strange clash of market, performance and graffiti art. Being accustomed to high octane, youth oriented hip-hop festivals, like the popular Manifesto fest- I have to admit I entered Nathan Phillips Square with an elitist attitude. Why was there seating in front of the DJ Booth?- Where are we suppose to dance?! Why wasn’t the music louder? Why are they putting a Jazz performance in between the Dj Sets?- blasphemy! Why was the art contained to one small area when it should be everywhere? It should take over! The energy should be more! More! More! More! However, once I bunkered down and watched with open eyes I started to take a new lease on what I was witnessing and realized that although the vibe was vastly different from what I was accustomed to it was also massivley accesible- to everyone, and that is where my attitude took a turn for the less snobby-road.
The relaxed energy seemed to allow the crowd to ask questions, engage with the artists, take in the music- and the Jazz act that was placed in between the hip-hop sets brought in a completely different crowd. As I watched one older gentleman walk up and down the rows of art, displayed adjacent to the stage I noticed a level of appreciation wash over his face. “What do you think of the graffiti?” I asked him as he approached where I was sitting.
“Oh, it’s not graffiti, it’s art” he said with a smile. I nodded and felt slightly enlightened.Even today the word “graffiti” is such a hot button word, with our city commissioning artist murals at the same time the Mayor fights to remove “graffiti” from the streets- is it possible that the Jazz’s festival’s relaxed presentation and accessibility is the answer to bridging the gap between youth graf culture and the older demographic? Is this how we teach the world that aerosol art is just that, Art. If it is it’s because of the dedication put forward by two artists who have spent just under a decade teaching kids to make art with aerosol.