Graffiti displays public significance

Amanda Nelson, Editor-in-Chief

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The definition of graffiti is writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place. The act of graffiti is illegal, but where is the line between street art and vandalism? The reality is, there is no difference; however, artists, such as Banksy, have made a legitimate name for themselves through street art and gained public appreciation and respect.
Banksy’s work in particular sparks conversation about our flawed society through his satirical spray paintings. Banksy’s work values at a very high price due to the quality of his work and his anonymous nature. Grafitti has a rich cultural history as well dating back to its true origins in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s with Daryl McCray, better known by the alias, Cornbread.
According to PBS News Hour, he was “a high school student from Philadelphia, who started tagging city walls to get the attention of a girl,” and in the 1980’s “galleries began to showcase graffiti as artwork.”
As exemplified with Cornbread, “It is not uncommon for writers [people who do graffiti] to move on from graffiti to formal art schooling and put graffiti-inspired work in galleries.”
During the early years of its history, graffiti was performed by lower-income people living in an urban setting. For many people, graffiti provided a path to a steady job and career path.
Another side to graffiti lies within gang-related activities, which supports the argument against graffiti as art. Some gangs use symbols to mark their territories in cities, however, the motive between street artists and gang members is what makes one art, and the other not. One is to create while the other is to signal or message.
So the question arises, is graffiti art? Art teacher Robert Pierson and a graduate of Kent State’s art school shared his opinion on the matter.
“As an art form, it’s just like there is high-quality music and low-quality music. There is high-quality writing and poor quality writing. Street art, tagging, and graffiti falls into that as anything else would,” Pierson said.
The difference between graffiti that ends up in a gallery versus something painted over the next morning is level of skill and effort put into the piece. One cannot just throw something on a canvas and call it art, there needs to be some level of thought and skill. I am in no way condoning illegal actions, but to consider graffiti as childish and juvenile ignores its impact and public significance.

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