Do you ever look at train tracks and see colorful words and pictures? An array of vibrant scribbles and lines? Names that you have no idea who they belong to? How about pictures of famous people, or illusions? That’s called graffiti.
According to PBS NewsHour, graffiti started in the late 1960s when a high school student from Philadelphia, who went by the name of Cornbread, began tagging his name on the city walls to get a girl's attention. Tagging is a stylized signature that street artists use to broadcast themselves and their work.
The big question about graffiti is whether it is street art or vandalism. Graffiti should not be a crime. A lot of the time, graffiti artists create art that has a message and can be considered street art.
Street art and graffiti have their differences and similarities. Jason Talbot, a professional graffiti artist at Artists for Humanity, explained both can be done in public with spray bottles, but the difference is “street art is for sale and is mainly about the enjoyment of the person buying it. Meanwhile, graffiti is more about the artist.”
Street art can be done publicly, with permission of property owners, and is image-based, whereas graffiti can be created without permission, illegally, and is mostly word-based. If someone is caught doing graffiti on a public wall, they could face serious jail time. That’s why there are graffiti yards, like “Graffiti Alley” in Cambridge, where people can do their art and not be punished for it.
You can assume graffiti would be considered a crime because artists work on other people’s property without permission. But if it is not disturbing or inappropriate, then why is it a problem?
Everyone has their own opinion. Graffiti artists should have the right to show off their talents wherever or whenever they want because it is their career. They do it for a living. You can’t take that away from them.
Some people question the reason for graffiti, but a lot of it has to do with respect. Talbot touches on how graffiti artists do graffiti and tag their name on walls because they want to elevate their voices and put themselves out there. They see big names like Amazon and want their names to be up there like them.
Jaylah Gulley, a sophomore visual arts major at Boston Arts Academy, wants people to know “the effort and feelings she puts into her work” when she draws.
Graffiti happens all over the world, especially in Great Britain, Australia and Colombia, and can be beneficial for cities. According to art and design website Co.Design, “A preliminary study for MIT’s Place Pulse suggests that street art may have a positive effect on how unique a city looks.” A lot of street art has a purpose. Artists try to relate their work to real world problems and contribute to their city’s economy and creativity. How is that a crime?
Would you prefer gang-affiliated graffiti plastered around your city, or graffiti with a positive meaning? When you criminalize graffiti on public walls, it can get out of hand and lead down to destroying the city rather than beautifying it.