With more than 20 years of experience, Winnipeg graffiti artist Sean McRae has successfully created a safer space for the graffiti community, hip-hop enthusiasts and creative minds alike to gather and restock on paint supplies and new ideas with zero judgment on skill level.
McRae opened his shop DeadYards Supplies in late December 2022.
Someone unfamiliar with the art form may see graffiti as destructive and disrespectful or may not even see it as art. But according to Dr. Oliver Botar, a professor of fine arts at the University of Manitoba, graffiti is an art form with a vibrant background that boasts some of the most extraordinary modern-day artists, such as Shepard Fairey, Futura 2000 and Winnipeg-based artist Vladimir Kraynyk.
“I hope my shop can help change many people’s minds, values and views on graffiti,” McRae says. “Walking into my shop and seeing guys working on pieces and seeing the different techniques, styles and ways to use a spray can or whichever tool you use to do art is difficult, but a lot of it is mind-blowing.”
McRae’s motivation to open DeadYards Supplies came from his art-community experiences and graffiti background.
Places where new and experienced artists could grab supplies or even meet to talk shop and collaborate were scarce. Those spots were often spread out all over the city, or people had to make do with what they had at the time.
“There wasn’t much out there for us really,” McRae says. “Our spots would be more like hanging out at the side of the train tracks sketching and whatnot, which was cool, but we’ve never had a spot where everything was there all at once.”
DeadYards Supplies gives the new generation of artists, graffiti writers and art enthusiasts a chance to buy supplies and find community in one location while educating anyone curious about the graffiti world and hoping to learn more about it.
McRae runs DeadYards Supplies out of his home but hopes to find a more permanent location. Walking into the makeshift storefront, those curious will see graffiti and the tools required, like vast racks of spray paints with various nozzles, markers for the everyday artist, sketchbooks and other graffiti-related media.
McRae’s artwork is also present, along with pieces from fellow artists scattered around Winnipeg and even the United States, as well as books and magazines about graffiti.
Since opening the store, DeadYards Supplies has been well-received in the Winnipeg graffiti scene, with new customers, veteran artists and novices often popping in to visit and shop.
Social media has also helped the business, especially regarding advertising and networking. Cathleen Hues, who goes by Pink Panda, a well-known muralist in Winnipeg, says finding McRae’s store on Instagram made it easier to speak and collaborate with more artists.
“If it wasn’t for places like Sean’s shop, I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to network as much as I did,” they say. “It wouldn’t have been as easy, just like meeting other artists. I wouldn’t have met the artists or attended different events in the city if it wasn’t for his shop.”
McRae hopes to put his big plans for the future into action soon. He wants to have a permanent location first and foremost. Secondly, he hopes to host more live painting events where Winnipeg artists can grab cans of spray paint and show off their skills to the public.
Published in Volume 77, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 9, 2023)