Graffiti

This weekend, the Star Tribune ran two articles about graffiti in Minneapolis. This one focuses on Shock, a Minneapolis graffiti artist, and the art vs. nuisance dilemma that’s followed graffiti like a dark cloud. According to this article, Minneapolis spends about 2.5 million annually on graffiti cleanup. And of course, it isn’t like these millions buy a final solution–they’re spent with the expectation that the cleaned-up areas will likely be tagged right up again. The article also mentions Juxtaposition Arts, an art studio in north Minneapolis where students can take classes in aerosol art. This mainstreaming of the culture surrounding graffiti is, depending on your perspective, either making for some excellent public art or creating a public nuisance that costs millions to combat.

The other article details what’s generally seen as the more sinister side of graffiti, the gang tag. What isn’t addressed in either article is the often fine line between gang graffiti and graffiti “art,” and really, the city isn’t too interested in the distinction. All graffiti is subject to the same policy: removal.

I’ve seen graffiti handled well in other cities. In Barcelona, shop owners hire aerosol artists to paint the large doors that cover their shop windows during off hours–siesta and late at night. Too, graffiti covers crumbling churches and, where it isn’t removed by owners, buildings’ sides. Because graffiti isn’t targeted as stringently by police, artists have time to create amazing murals, making for a vivid city that attracts photographers and graffiti enthusiasts. In Seattle, there are areas designated for “graffiti” murals, but in keeping with the American attitude toward graffiti, content is censored.

The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal, a 2002 film, takes a satirical look at the culture graffiti removal creates, calling attention to the fact that the absence of graffiti can define a culture, too.

So, my question for readers is, what do you think: are we better off with or without graffiti? And, where have you seen a policy toward graffiti that seems to be working?

3 Comments so far

  1. Erica (unregistered) on October 16th, 2006 @ 2:21 am

    To be perfectly honest, every time I see graffiti, it doesn’t even occur to me that it might be gang-related. And I’m not sure when I look at the next one that I’d be able to tell the difference. What sticks out to me more is the “art” of it. I do certainly notice the difference between what I’d consider to be more of a mural vs what looks like some dickhead just wanted to mark their territory and scribbled out a name.

    If someone’s going to take the time to put up something that obviously took a lot of creativity and effort, by all means, I think we should leave it. The other stuff, I can see painting over it. But then, how do you determine what’s crap and what’s “okay”? I have no idea. “I know it when I see it” can’t be something you can write a city ordinance on. I’m really hesitant to say that we should just paint over all of it, but I don’t know how you’d go about consistently determining what’s good graffiti and what’s bad graffiti.


  2. Erica (unregistered) on October 16th, 2006 @ 2:24 am

    Flickr photos of graffiti around town: [1] [2]


  3. Brandon (unregistered) on October 17th, 2006 @ 3:08 pm

    I like the idea of having designated areas where non-gang related murals can be painted ie greenway under hennepin bridge etc. Anywhere else…manditory removal!



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