Graffiti: Public Service or Nuisance?

Paige Peerenboom & Tina Quigley

paige peerenboom and tina quigley | everything arts | sept 2015

Local artist Beau Thomas creates art for the streets as well as galleries and got his start painting freight trains. After a brush with the law he transferred his graffiti skills onto canvas and gallery walls. Beau maintains a rugged graffiti aesthetic and has been hired by breweries, schools and local businesses to create paintings and murals.Is graffiti really the crime that it is often made out to be? Or is it something that should be celebrated and encouraged? Graffiti range from simple written works to elaborate wall paintings. While graffiti have existed since ancient times, it is a rapidly developing art form in today's modern world.

In our world today, graffiti artists receive plenty of mixed signals. For some it's okay to express themselves on the side of this building, but not on that building. Some get paid to tag a space, while others are fined. How can two people expressing themselves in the same way be labeled as two completely different things? Artists and Criminals.

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 affects 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.

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.

By allowing graffiti in specified locations, you are also promoting and supporting local artistic talent. Not everyone's abilities lend themselves to 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!

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.

Graffiti is a powerful art movement that has a positive affect on how unique a cityscape can look. And cities around the world are embracing street art instead of fighting it. Once an act of vandalism, now a celebrated form of public art!

Paige Peerenboom is a contributing writer for Mosaic Arts, Inc. and Tina Quigley is the executive director of Mosaic, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to supporting and promoting the work of artists, arts and cultural organizations and creative businesses in the greater Green Bay area that make the community a better place. To find out how you can be a vital part of sustaining the arts in the greater Green Bay area visit email, or call (920) 435-5220.

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