Thimble art starts to measure up

Spacing‘s very own Shawn Micallef had a piece about the thimble public art piece found at the northeast corner of Richmond and Spadina in the weekend’s Globe and Mail. Click here to read the entire article.

A giant bronze thimble and two concrete buttons: As works of art go, Stephen Cruise’s Uniform Measure/Stack seems pretty well indestructible. But when you leave art in the open, anything can happen. That’s what Mr. Cruise has learned as his public art piece at Spadina and Richmond has received a long-overdue finishing touch — and an unauthorized addition in bright red paint.

But then Victor Fraser came along in September to add his contribution: a 25-metre tape measure, painted on the sidewalk in bright red, that snakes around the street corner. Most passerby assume it’s an official part of the piece and was added along with the trees — but in fact, the paint job is the unsanctioned work of the Toronto sidewalk artist, who signs his paintings “VicTor.”

Mr. Fraser has done paid sidewalk art for various companies, but Torontonians who walk with their heads down are likely more familiar with his “free” work, which includes murals in front of Toronto fire and ambulance stations. Last year, he painted a massive poppy for Remembrance Day in front of Old City Hall. “I enjoy doing tributes that accent the community,” he says.

As for the measuring tape, Mr. Fraser had been planning on it since he first saw the thimble in 1997. “I finally caught up to it,” he says. He spent 25 hours painting it over the course of a few days, before and after his day job managing a downtown building.

Mr. Cruise says his first reaction to Mr. Victor’s unauthorized painting was that “it brought a smile to my face,” adding that “it’s different than graffiti, he did a very good job. He painted it meticulously.” However, Mr. Cruise points out that what was once an element you might discover later on, perhaps while “waiting for the light to change,” the bold measuring tape is now one of the first things you see, and the surprise is gone.

When asked about the invasive nature of his work, Mr. Fraser says “You could call it selfish if you want, but I call it positive manipulation. I had to do it. It teased me and taunted me.” Though amused and a little concerned, Mr. Cruise says his official response for now is simply “I’m thinking about it.”


  1. I liked the subtlety of the original. The red paint and numbers are a bit much.

  2. I’ve heard people saying the opposite: that the red is a welcome addition.

  3. “Click here to read the full article”?

  4. I definitely thought that was authorized! I even took pictures of it to blog about it but couldn’t find any info about the addition 🙂

  5. Yes, Clark, people might want to read the entire article.

  6. This photo doesn’t seem to have the tape measure. Is it an old photo?

  7. Ya, that picture is old. I don’t think we have one of the new tape — and I haven’t been by to take a picture. There was a picture w/ the globe story, but it didn’t make it online.

  8. An even better – although more transient – addition was the tomato plant growing in the “eye” of one of the giant buttons next to the thimble.

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  10. I watched it for years, the tape measure..
    Even before they finished the building of that cool lookin condo. When I saw that they “Contractors” had forgotton 90 percent of the tape measure I knew I had to show what was forgotton. I will not be doing it agian until 2009. And it will be much longer than the 54 inches It is to date 2007. (each inch is really 4 feet.)

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