Saying goodbye to CSU’s Graffiti Garden

The first thing you notice is the eye.
The size of a small television, and surrounded by a collage of 3-D color patterns that twist around the white pupil, the eye stares ominously at visitors as they walk into the graffiti garden on the south side of the visual arts building on the CSU campus.

The Graffiti Garden outside of the Art bulding, is a space that allows students to tag freely without worrying about the troubles of law enforcement.
The Graffiti Garden outside of the Art bulding, is a space that allows students to tag freely without worrying about the troubles of law enforcement.

A courtyard enclosed by concrete walls has been turned into a constantly changing art project. Covering the walls is a multitude of art and graffiti work, each one reflecting the unique style of the anonymous artist who contributed their expertise.

The idea was developed in a class project within the art department where different groups had to advocate for the arts in some way. The graffiti garden was created to raise awareness of the art form and to offer a chance for community members to artistically express themselves on campus.

Other ideas included addressing stereotypes, raising awareness of bulimia and anorexia in dancing and creating a blog for new artists.

“Once the students started it, almost overnight people came in and added their own stuff,” said Ellie Moseman, associate professor in the art department and instructor of the class in which the idea for the graffiti garden was developed. “Even from week to week it has morphed and changed drastically.”

Leslie Sanders, a freshman art major whose group came up with the idea, said her group of seven students wanted to focus on censorship in the arts.

She added that some people see graffiti as a nuisance or something that needs to be completely eliminated from urban areas, while in fact high levels of artistry, time and talent are required to create what are oftentimes intricate designs.

“When people see graffiti on the walls they think of it as ugly and negative,” Sanders said. “We wanted to show that graffiti is a beautiful form of artwork.”

After writing up a proposal, which included guidelines like no vulgarity and establishing paint boundaries, the idea worked its way up to department head Gary Voss, who quickly approved the graffiti garden.

Arrows in the plaza leading to the newly established graffiti garden and word of mouth prompted artists to contribute their expertise to the project. Within two weeks, all the walls were covered in art.

As time progressed, new artists would cover up prior paintings, creating an organic environment that was in constant flux.

While some works of art like Michelangelo’s “David” or paintings by Picasso and Rembrandt are intended to last indefinitely, the original graffiti garden’s time on earth was limited from the beginning.

On Monday, construction begins in the courtyard where the graffiti garden can be found. The space will be turned into a wing for a new electronic media curriculum. The concrete walls will stay, but will be covered over and repurposed. A roof and flooring will be added, transforming the space into an indoor lab.

“One of the aspects of street art is it’s ephemeral and temporary,” Moseman said. “In a certain way it gives the piece itself a human element because it’s not going to last.”

The project turned out to be so successful that plans are tentatively underway to create a new graffiti garden somewhere around the art building.

“We were completely aware this was temporary,” Sanders said. “Because of the success, we plan on moving it to a different nook of the building.”