Moss Graffiti Article
by Rob Howatson (on behalf of The Neighbourhood Small Grants Program)

They’re Lichen It!

It sounds like a crime in progress, three young people spraying graffiti on the exterior walls of the Renfrew Park Community Centre, but the suspects in this case are university students finding a unique and legal way to connect with their neighbourhood. In September, <2012> Cassandra Ly, Annie Liang and Brendan Chan helped artist Juliana Bedoya install a series of moss graffiti artworks on the outside of the parkade and the swimming pool. The young trio of volunteers, who call themselves The Tree Mosskateers, harvested clumps of moss from their yards and glued the greenery to the barren concrete wall forming a dynamic image of a little boy tossing a ball along a trajectory illustrated by an arc of spheres that resemble lunar phases. The moon path ends at the feet of a man performing a graceful tai chi move.

The project is impressive on several levels. Pedestrians encountering the works for the first time see only random bits of moss, until they reach a certain distance from the wall and the image dramatically snaps into focus. The setting for the main mural is perfect, because the wall is shaded by trees in the adjoining Renfrew park ravine. Cool, moist air from the creek wafts up onto the wall, feeding the moss as much as the volunteers who regularly mist the art with spray bottles.

The moss art is part of a larger Renfrew initiative entitled Our Footprint: A Community Mapping Project. The neighbourhood engagement strategy was conducted by members of Something Collective, a resident artists group to which Bedoya belongs. Bedoya says this form of moss graffiti is easy on the environment. The glue is bio-degradable and non-toxic. When the moss dries out, it falls away from the wall leaving little trace of adornment.

The eco-friendliness of the process appealed to the Mosskateers. “We all hold strong values for sustainability and the ways in which it can build a stronger community,” says Ly,  a 19-year-old graduate of Windermere Secondary now an Arts student at SFU.

In addition to the murals, Ly and her two collaborators applied for a Neighbourhood Small Grant to help pay for supplies and the trio encouraged area residents to gather at the community centre to make their own moss art on small ceramic tiles. Ly says, “The art may be temporary, but the relationships we built with our neighbours are long lasting.”