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Since 2012, there has been a new, ever-evolving team of crime fighters on the streets of Toronto. The Hulk, Mr. Rogers, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are just of few of the fictional characters forming a motley crew of Toronto guardians. For the past four years, a Toronto artist has been with The Neighbourhood Watch project. Giving faded Neighbourhood Watch signs a second life, pictures of retro characters from the 1980s and ’90s – including comic book heroes, cult shows and films, and morning cartoons – are pasted onto Neighbourhood Watch signs across Toronto. The Culture Trip caught up with the artist behind the project, a 32-year-old west-ender who works under the pseudonym Andrew Lamb. It all sounds like cloak and daggers, but vigilante crime-fighting is a serious business – with Lamb delivering it in the most nostalgia-inducing way possible.
Lamb is a multi-disciplinary artist, mechanic, and puppet designer – he’s been making puppets for Broadway shows since 2005. His art practice often involves large-scale theatrics, and with a self-described childlike imagination, it’s no surprise he channeled the childhood nostalgia of growing up in the ’80s and ’90s.
If you’ve walked through Toronto, you’ve likely seen his signs. As of summer 2016, Lamb has plastered about 120 signs, with a few caveats: there are a few duplicates from the project’s beginning, some of the signs have been taken down by the city, and there’s at least one in someone’s living room. Lamb elaborated on this perfectly retro project…
What are your criteria for choosing which characters to plaster?
As an equal opportunities employer, we encourage all qualified superheroes, crime fighters and do-gooders from the artists’ childhood to apply for available positions in the Neighbourhood Watch.
Do you have any personal favourites, or signs that are especially meaningful to you?
Being a team-focused community organization, all of our employees do their fair share to make sure our neighbourhoods are in fact watched.
When/how do you typically do the plastering?
I usually do the pasting at the crack of dawn on Sunday mornings. I am a morning person sadly.
Have you had any fascinating encounters with locals while working?
A man in his 40s ran up to me while putting up a sign of Sylvester Stallone as Judge Dredd. He accused me of violating the Highway Traffic Act. I said the Highway Traffic Act doesn’t apply to Neighbourhood Watch signs. He yelled ‘That’s not a Neighbourhood Watch sign!’ I was pretty sure it was because I was standing right in front of it, but for a second, I questioned my grasp on reality. Had I inadvertently through some twist of psychosis been pasting pictures of Wonder Woman on speed limit or no U-Turn signs for the last three years? It turns out I hadn’t. Some people just get mad before they even know what’s going on. Especially men in their 40s.
Have you run into any legal issues with the Neighbourhood Watch project?
No legal issues, everyone loves it.
For a round-up of some of Lamb’s beloved Neighbourhood Watch signs, take a look: