Graffiti: Art or Vandalism

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Graffiti: Art or Vandalism?
Sam Cowey

Graffiti has been around for more than half a decade and practiced worldwide. However there is debate between whether it is a form of art or vandalism. Graffiti artists’ debate that many do not understand the reason most graffiti artist take the risk of incarceration, fines, injuries, and in some cases death to paint a wall. A graffiti artist can have the simple desire to become recognized, or to create a piece that speaks to their audience as a form of self expression. Because graffiti is associated with gangs and acts of destruction to some many cannot see the history and importance graffiti can have on a worldwide scale. Due to the fact that graffiti is usually produced illegally, meaning it is on private property without permission, means that it is vandalism, but this does not take away from the overpowering factors that make graffiti a legitimate form of aesthetically pleasing art.

Graffiti is best known for being created in New York City in the late 1960’s. Youths would write their names along with the street number they lived on all across New York. This was directly related to gangs to mark their territory. Law enforcement quickly began apprehending graffiti writers, or taggers, and did as much as possible to remove and prevent graffiti even creating departments with funding to specifically fight and cover up graffiti. However by the 1970’s graffiti expanded from a form of protest into a culture. Techniques in writing were developed and visually appealing art was created. May fifth, 1985. Approximately twenty years after the start of graffiti a New York times article by Lena Williams began with, “Following the lead of New Rochelle, six other southern Westchester communities have banned together to combat graffiti by agreeing to enact ordinances that would prohibit the sale of spray paint to people under the age of 18.” (P WC1) This was a new strategy of many, on the ever-going war to stop graffiti. So who does graffiti? Kenneth Davis, a Yonkers community police officer stated in another New York Times article by Marc Ferris that graffiti was a “barometer of gang activity.” (P. 6) Gangs would create markings that other gang members could decipher stating territory or those who pledge allegiance to a certain gang. In the same article the writer explains his surroundings while interviewing a police officer specialized in tracking gang activity through graffiti. “At an entrance to the Greenburgh Housing Authority property at 9 Maple St. included initials ck with an arrow pointing down, which stood for Crip killers, along with a roll call of nine names.” (P. 6) Graffiti is in fact a quality of life issue due to misguided youth who are defacing private property for the purpose of promoting senseless violence and to destroy property. Taggers, or graffiti writers who write their names on walls with spray paint and other tools, with no regard for the law, and intentions to destroy some ones property are also on the hotlist for police officers. Taggers make the surround environment an eye soar and promote violence within the community. A graffiti artist would argue that not all graffiti artists are gang members, only twenty percent of graffiti is gang related according to Walsh author of Graffito. In George Stowers essay on graffiti he reflects on an New York Times article when a report asked, “What sorts of kids write graffiti?” police officer Kevin Hickey of the New York transit police departments graffiti squad replied, “the type of kids that live in New York City.”(P 3) Modern day graffiti is not done by just inner city youths like some may believe but has expanded throughout the world and through different classes. Graffiti artist are different from your regular day tagger and a gang member because they use techniques and tools, like spray can caps that create different line types and widths. Why do people do graffiti? To graffiti artists, stated by George Stowers, “The...
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