Research Of Graffiti To Be An Art Or Crime

The topic I chose for my argument paper, is “should graffiti be considered art or crime?”. I have always been intrigued with graffiti whether seeing it on the side of a moving train, on bridges, businesses or parks, it seems to be visible almost anywhere you look today.

Graffiti, today often referred to as street art is quickly becoming a global cultural sensation. The Faith of Graffiti written in 1974 by Norman Mailer was one of the first pieces of literary works looking into the origins and importance of graffiti in the modern urban culture. Mailer back in the 70’s supported the art receiving a lot of push back from others who viewed it as vandalism. Today, given a more politically correct name of street artists, these individuals are slowly beginning to win the battle, as their work is often more artistic and detailed than the average graffiti scribble.

The Visual Arts Right Act (VARA) was created in 1990 to protect visual artists from mutilation, distortion or any other modification. It protects art from being altered. VARA has been somewhat controversial when challenged by street artists in courts. In Long Island City, New York, the artistic work of 5Pointz that was displayed on a 200,000 square foot factory wall was torn down in 2013 replaced by luxury condos. On one attempt, 5Pointz sued trying to preserve the space however, the New York judge ruled against them claiming the street could not be considered art, only to be tried again in 2018 citing VARA, 5Pointz was then awarded $6. 7 million. Likewise across the country in California, a mural drawn by Ken Twitchell was whitewashed without his knowledge or consent in which the courts awarded him $1 million which proved to be another VARA success. While this research can be somewhat persuasive in supporting the artistic take on graffiti there is still the debate that graffiti is considered vandalism and a crime. Most countries when there is marking property without property owner’s permission is considered vandalism and defacement, which is a crime that is punishable.

I found it quite interesting that there is an anonymous England graffiti artist referred to as Bansky, who has managed to elude authorities for years even through surveillance attempts. His early career was considered freehand graffiti. His work is very desirable and often his murals intact have sold for millions. Bansky has an estimated self-worth of $20 million. While some graffiti is viewed as art, there is still graffiti that is gang related often when a group of individuals want to mark their turf, challenge rivals, show status of power or communicate within gangs using code. This graffiti is referred to by the Los Angeles Police Department as gang graffiti. This graffiti is a source of intimidation and imposes fear in neighborhoods. When these neighborhoods become marked with graffiti displaying territorial dominance, the entire area and its individuals living within it, become targets for violence. Anyone in the streets or in their homes becomes fair game subjects to drive by attacks by rival gang members. Often innocent residents are targeted just simply by the graffiti presence in their neighborhood. Graffiti removal can often be costly to the cities and citizens living within them. You have to question money spent on removal, could it have been used to better education, provide shelters for the homeless, feed the homeless or contribute to any other need a community may have. In conclusion, while there is no politically correct answer or solution as to if graffiti is art or a crime, it seems to be gaining support from the public.

Only time may determine if judges and laws will follow suit in declaring it a legal form of personal expression. Living close to Austin, Texas, one of what I consider to be an art mecca of the country, individuals come from all over to view such art graffiti offered by Graffiti Park at Castle Hills, the HOPE Outdoor Gallery or the SprATX to name a few. Personally in my opinion, I feel the art graffiti outweighs the gang graffiti. I support individuals being able to express themselves through their art just as I express myself at my job, at my home, within my community or within my academics. We are blessed to live in a country where we are all free to argue our point.

10 October 2020
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