Graffiti: A subject of debate across countless communities all over the globe.

Is graffiti really the heinous crime that law enforcement makes it out to be? Or is it something that should be celebrated and encouraged?

In our world today, graffiti artists receive plenty of mixed signals. It’s okay to express yourself on the side of this building, but not on that building. We’ll cover the costs for you to tag this space, but we’ll fine you for tagging that space. Where is the line when its okay for some people to get “paid” to create graffiti works, but other people get arrested for doing the same thing.

How can two people expressing themselves in the same way be labeled as two completely different things? Artists and Criminals.

Shepard Fairey's commissioned mural in Detroit - While a warrant for his arrest was issued for 9 other pieces.

Shepard Fairey’s commissioned mural in Detroit – While a warrant for his arrest was issued for 9 other pieces. Brandy Baker/Detroit News, via Associated Press.

If you were to take a survey about graffiti, the majority of the negative responses indicating that graffiti is wrong and that it is a crime would revolve around the legality of the work, the destruction of public property, and the expense to remove the artwork.

But imagine if urban settings had designated spaces for graffiti artists to do their work. It would be legal, it wouldn’t deface any public property, and lastly, no one would want to remove it. By giving graffiti artists a designated space to work without repercussions, we can focus on the positive effects that graffiti has on a community.

The most obvious way that graffiti effects a community is by beautification alone. Graffiti artists have a way of finding the places that need a pick-me-up the most. By taking abandoned spaces and transforming them into colorful works of art, graffiti artists create places that people want to be. They create an atmosphere where people can gather together to enjoy a common feeling of wonder.

Bonnaroo Graffiti Wall. Photo courtesy of Buzzfeed.

Bonnaroo Graffiti Wall. Photo courtesy of Buzzfeed.

Graffiti also allows people to gain understanding from a perspective different from their own. Graffiti pieces express culture, passion, creativity, and freedom (amongst other things). It sparks discussion about current events, addresses controversy and revolution, makes a statement about society, and serves as a creative outlet for thoughts that cannot be put into words.  Graffiti inspires thought and ideas; it visually stimulates the mind.

Banksy. Photo from http://banksy.co.uk/out.asp

Banksy. Photo from http://banksy.co.uk/out.asp

By allowing graffiti in specified locations, you are also promoting and supporting local artistic talent. Not everyone’s abilities lend themselves to stuffy gallery settings. Some artistic expression requires freedom and room to work. By supporting local artists, the overall creativity in a community thrives.  It shows that the community is alive and spontaneous and full of wonder!

Owen Dippie. Radiant Madonna. The Bushwick Collective. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Owen Dippie. Radiant Madonna. The Bushwick Collective. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

(In case you forgot why a creative community is important, click here.)

Graffiti is also important because it can bring communities together. Art transforms space. It speaks. It illustrates need. It sparks necessary discussion. It inspires action.

Banksy. Photo courtesy of http://banksy.co.uk/out.asp

Banksy. Photo courtesy of http://banksy.co.uk/out.asp

Take ExhibitBE for example, this community-centered celebration of street art’s transformative energy highlights the opportunity for collective empowerment through creative expression.  After Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, local community organization Common Ground organized for over 30 artists to come together to transform the De Gaulle Manor in Louisiana into a space for a temporary art exhibition. The artists created graffiti works that addressed the problems in the area head on and demanded change.

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ExhibitBE “American Gothic” Photo courtesy of http://brandanodums.com/be/

How can we as a society change the way graffiti is perceived? Imagine the creative potential lurking in the darkness! We just need to give it a green light!

 

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