Art or Vandalism?

Cayla Reed, Opinions Editor

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Is Graffiti Art? This is the ultimate question when it comes to this particular art form. Are the vibrant and eclectic images and words on the sides of buildings, trains, and other public canvases, images to be treasured like those of well-known artists or are they a public nuisance?

Graffiti, starting in the 1970s, gained credit for being art as people appreciated its unique style. Today, graffiti is put in galleries and called art, but that doesn’t mean that artists, art critics, or art buyers believe graffiti should be put upon the walls of public or private places illegally.

Some graffiti artists receive both legal consent and pay for their artwork – often in mural form – on the sides of buildings or other designated spaces. In these cases, the artist’s work is not vandalism because they have received proper consent, therefore making it legal for them to draw or paint what they want on that platform. For those who do not obtain consent, the act of putting their art or their mark on a building or other space is vandalism.

However, some feel that the art form – if done properly and beautifully – contains important public pieces. Author George C. Stowers says, “The reasons, including aesthetic criteria, as to why it is an art form far outweigh the criticism of illegality, incoherence, and nonstandard presentation.” Sowers also expresses that there’s a difference between a simple tag and more complicated pieces that express creative skill, imagination and beauty.

Despite the impressive skills of graffiti artists, the problem remains that, just because the art on the side of a wall looks good, without proper consent, it is illegal. Saying that visually pleasing graffiti is okay and poorly scrawled tags are not is the same as believing that if a good-looking person commits a crime, it lessens the severity or eliminates the criminal aspect of the deed because he looks good. We have to remember that, while graffiti might meet what we deem artistic criteria, if it is done without legal permission it also meets the vandalism criteria. Tags made on the sides of railroad cars and buildings are also very costly to remove or cover. Ultimately, for graffiti artists to be taken seriously, they need to respect the laws around them and, perhaps, paint on their own property or in local art parks where that type of art will be appreciated.

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