Many sidewalks in Centretown have been splashed with colour over the past few weeks with various spray-painted flowers appearing on street corners. And while their presence appears to contravene city bylaws, nobody seems to mind.

Vince Nogeuira, a local resident, likes the blooms.

“The flowers bring a sense of community and that small-town feel that many Ottawans have when thinking about the closeness of their neighbourhoods.”

More than 25 spray-painted different flowers started appearing on the downtown streets in August. A few simple roses has now expanded to sunflowers, tulips and lace-like patterns that string multiple flowers together.

The artist, known by the pseudonym “Mr. Smith,” is a Centretown resident. A gardener by day and a lifelong artist, he decided to start planting some ‘seeds’ around the community — this time using a new medium and despite not having a permit to do so.

“I never really got into spray paint until the summer. It actually kind of scared me, ’cause I mean first of all it’s permanent and it’s not necessarily legal,” Mr. Smith told Capital Current.

Although spray-painted graffiti is considered vandalism, no action has been taken to remove the work yet. Tessa Franklin, who works in Somerset Coun. Ariel Troster’s office, said, “We’ve met with public works but we’re not sure when or why they’ve (the flowers) started popping up.”

“Because there’s nothing hateful about it, it’s not really a number one priority,” Franklin said.

The City of Ottawa bylaw for graffiti management lists cases of hate, offensive or problem graffiti as ones that would be removed by the city; enforcement is complaint-driven. This is exactly what Mr. Smith is trying to avoid.

“You see so many skulls or goblins and stuff like that right, so I kind of thought the flower is a universal symbol and nobody’s going to be offended. It’s not going to be something that the city is immediately gonna be like ‘ah this has to go,’ ” Smith said.

Roses painted on Centretown sidewalk by ‘Mr. Smith.’ [Photo by Sophie Panton]

Communities across Ottawa have begun promoting street art by local artists to enhance their own neighbourhoods, including in Hintonburg and Chinatown, west of Ottawa’s core. In Hintonburg, 18 marble statues known as “The Wellington Marbles” are displayed along the neighbourhood’s main street. Depicting such things as peas in a pod or firefighter’s boots, the statues were created by Marcus Kucey Jones and Ryan Lotecki to represent diverse aspects of the community.

In Chinatown, a series of statues were erected in April after the neighbourhood’s BIA received a $200,00 tourism relief grant from Ontario’s FedDev, the Ottawa Citizen reported. These works of street art are meant to represent Chinese culture and draw tourists to experience the neighbourhood.

“The statues were installed in the neighbourhood as a merriment, to revitalize the community, to add colours and attractiveness to the community and to bring in more foot traffic,” said Yukang Li from the Chinatown BIA.

Such examples seem to suggest that the audience is there for neighbourhood street art.

And the downtown flower artist? “Living in Centretown for the past five years, I’ve seen a handful of artists leave their mark on the neighbourhood,” Nogeuira said. “However, it wasn’t until this work that I noticed people talking about local art.”

Mr. Smith says he is attempting to bring a smile to the faces of local residents.

“What touched me the most was this mother and her son … they were playing a game where the first to spot one of the flowers would race to it and they were playing a little game with it. It’s cool if you can do something that brings people closer together,” Smith said.