Creativity or Crime

On a bus ride through the downtown area of San Francisco or any other city, you are bound to see graffiti adorning the city walls. The modern form of street art we know today was born during the late 1960’s. Credited as the first graffiti writer, Darryl “Cornbread” McCray tagged his name all over North Philadelphia. By the end of the century, tagging and graffiti spread all across the country. Graffiti is now seen throughout urban metropolises and is an integral part of urban culture. Though vandalism and graffiti are often associated with one another, graffiti can be seen as more an art rather than the defacing of art. Even though most people think graffiti is simply an illegal trashing of public buildings, it is a form of art that should be recognized rather than detested.

When labeled as vandalism, graffiti is seen as harmful, dangerous, and annoying. Often associated with crime and destruction, it usually carries a negative connotation. However, graffiti does not have to be viewed in such a negative light; graffiti should be seen as an art. Some types of graffiti like tags are simply stylized writing with no significant value and do not attempt to convey meaningful messages. However, complicated pieces like murals that cover the expanse of alley walls should be recognized. Skill and careful planning go into making a mural, opposed to a thoughtless scribble.

Graffiti should be considered an art since it does take skill and can assume many forms of expression. Graffiti has been recognized as art by some in the art community, but it should be appreciated and valued universally for its unique style.  It can often add vivacity to the locations that it’s used in and should be appreciated for its contribution to the mood of its surroundings. Some graffiti artists have even had their works displayed in galleries. For example, works of graffiti artist Futura, Gaia, and Swoop were on display at C.A.V.E. Gallery’s exhibition “Street Art Saved My Life”.

Graffiti is a unique art style with urban and counter-culture influences. The art communicates unpopular ideas or show shifts in culture. Mainstream art can often be lighthearted and skirt around the edge of serious topics. Graffiti, however, which is the expression of the underground, is what opens our eyes to issues we might not have been aware of.

Although graffiti should be interpreted as art, there are some aspects of the practical side of the issue that should not be ignored. The placement of the art is important; graffiti artists should not deface other people’s property. Perhaps cities can set aside walls where these artists can express themselves. In addition, it is crucial that people advocate graffiti that spreads creative ideas. In turn, they should also withhold support for graffiti that involves obscene implications.

People have long confused graffiti with vandalism. They have not taken the time to differentiate between tags and artistic pieces. Collectively, graffiti is undeservingly associated with destruction and illegality. However, in reality, those labels only apply to simple tags. Graffiti can be a beautiful and unique form of art. It expresses ideas of the underground, a side not often portrayed in the art world. Graffiti doesn’t have to have such a negative connotation that invokes biased judgments. In order to fully understand an issue or art piece, one must throw away preconceived notions.