LTTE: All graffiti is good — limiting it dismisses art, culture

LTTE%3A+All+graffiti+is+good+%E2%80%94+limiting+it+dismisses+art%2C+culture

Collegian | Trin Bonner

Guest Author

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A September article published in the opinion section of The Collegian praised the City of Fort Collins for its plentiful murals while decrying vandalism. It is valuable, I think, to let a vandal defend their practice. So why is graffiti good?  

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First, graffiti is an ancient cultural practice seen throughout the world and produces, alongside other arts, works of various qualities. Like other art, graffiti can range from simple tags to massive murals with incomprehensible lettering (at least, to those who are not familiar with graffiti) and astounding color combinations.  

Dismissal of graffiti is ultimately a dismissal of art, especially art that is so public and so accessible. 

Graffiti art can be incredibly cheap and can be done with a $3 can of paint or a stolen Sharpie, making it far easier for poor and working-class people to participate than with, say, oil painting or graphic design. Learning to produce art can require lessons or formal education — both expensive as sin — but graffiti can be far more financially accessible. 

Further, most conventional art is relegated to museums that can be expensive to attend and purposefully limit the definition of “good art” in ways that benefit owners of “good art.”

Graffiti is time consuming as well. Artists often produce their art on weird schedules (nights or early mornings) and typically strive to produce a large number of quick works alongside a few longer-form and high-quality works, which also tend to be expensive. 

Many graffiti artists very explicitly put the most effort into producing art associated with their tag, and the perfection of an individual’s tag can be a complex process of varying lettering styles and accents to create something aesthetically pleasing, but especially for simpler works those less complex than well-planned murals these tags must also be quick to put up, given legal concerns.  

“Why is graffiti good? For many of us, it is the only art we can make that people may see. Hell, it pisses off the worst people, too. Wear a mask, be safe and start tagging today.”

Graffiti is, for the most part, illegal. Vandalism, or purposefully damaging someone else’s property, seems wrong without a doubt. Many graffiti artists agree! Others recognize the impact of graffiti varies based on who owns the property damaged and advocate for only tagging businesses or city property.  

Why is this? Tagging a home or a fence hurts a fellow working person more often than not and harms them way more than vandalizing a business harms a business owner.  

Property is everything in the world we live in (racist, patriarchal capitalism) and is the ball and chain that keeps the poor working class from living fulfilling lives of leisure and abundance while the ultra-rich, who own the walls we tag and control the governments whose utilities we paint on, have more wealth than they can ever spend.  

Throw-ups and tags lower property values and thus keep affordable housing affordable. Murals like those seen in gentrified neighborhoods are designed to prevent graffiti and disrupt poor — in most gentrifying neighborhoods, Black or brown — people from exercising long-held art cultures while leading to evictions and rising rents. 

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Property and the laws that enforce it prevent all of us from living how we want. That is why the laws against property damage are so strict and actively enforced, whereas laws that could (theoretically, but never really could in practice) prevent interpersonal harm are not. The police and the law are both heavily racist institutions in places like the United States, which is why deference to the law — taught to so many — is a racist practice.  

Why follow a law built to smash the lives of Black and brown people for the benefit of whites — and especially the rich? 

Graffiti culture produces countless publicly available works of art and does so for a class of people — the working class — unable to have their art seen otherwise. It is only so heavily disparaged because of racist social norms about rule breaking. Why is graffiti good? For many of us, it is the only art we can make that people may see. Hell, it pisses off the worst people, too. Wear a mask, be safe and start tagging today.  

Peter Krow,

Colorado State University janitor/cleaning tech

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