Moral Alley

The collaborative process of the artist Deborah Waddington

This is a series of posters done in collaboration with crack and heroin users in the downtrodden neighbourhood of Parkdale in Toronto. The goal of the project was to work with drug users to visually explore the ethical undercurrents which inform this community.

I approached thirty street-involved Parkdale drug users and paid each $20 to discuss their moral viewpoint. In the corner of a coffee shop I asked, "What is a motto that is descriptive of the way you believe you should treat other people?"

Once the participant had decided on a saying I asked him/her to explore what kind of visual would best illustrate it. We worked out a rough sketch on paper by organizing details and assigning colours. I completed the posters in my studio and, if possible, I reconnected with the individuals to get their response and feedback. Each participant received a colour print of their poster.

Since this project was initiated a number of the participants have died, or moved out of the neighbourhood as the forces of gentrification and police pressure disrupted the community.


Since graduating from the Ontario College of Art in 1990, Deborah Waddington has done a number of collaborative projects with such diverse communities as street people, sex workers, and nurses. In 1997 she was awarded the Protégé Award, and in 1999, a Canada Council Grant. She currently works as a counsellor at the "The Works" - the City of Toronto's needle exchange, and on weekends, works at a horse farm in Newmarket.

To see more of Deborah Waddington's work, please visit her website.


Toronto , ON
Ontario CA