Chalk It Up For Graffiti

One of the main characters in Painted Black is a graffiti artist and perhaps because of this I admit to having a tolerance and, in some cases, even a fondness for graffiti.

When is art art and when is it vandalism?  Can it be both?  I know only a little about the graffiti culture, but I do know there is a difference between tagging (marking your symbol/initials) and burning (a large, elaborate painting, usually applied legally.)  Just as there is a difference between free speech and vandalizing property.  If I see either painted on fences and walls in my neighborhood it doesn’t bother me at all and may even, if well done, be admired.

The article below further blurs the lines between what is legal and illegal when the “graffiti” in question is applied with the easily washable application of sidewalk chalk.  The article primarily talks about chalking protest symbols and sayings, but there are instances cited where children have been arrested and parents brought to court and sentenced or fined for what all of us did as children: drawing with chalk on sidewalks.

I was particularly struck by the instance quoted below.  The next time you see a hopscotch pyramid or a stick figure scribbled in pink and blue as you’re walking down your street, ask yourself:  “Is this an attempt at vandalism that means the young artist will someday be spray painting gang signs on my front door, or is this just a bright, creative child who will one day paint magnificent works sold at high end art galleries?”

That’s not all. One week ago in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, police cited two teenagers for decorating a street with chalk renditions of a whale and a sea turtle. The kids must now appear in court and pay a fine to be determined by a district judge. James Donnelly, Doylestown’s police chief, told a local newspaper that the chalking was “an attempt at vandalism” that could lead to the use of more permanent materials.

Chalk. The gateway art supply.

via Chalk a Sidewalk, Go to Jail | Mother Jones.

Not a Lot Different

This street artist is not someone I knew, or ever will know.  Because he was murdered in 2008.  I found out about his death when a blog I follow on chicagonow.com posted a note that his murderer had recently been found guilty.

But he’s someone I could have known.  He graduated from the Illinois Institute of Art, where I used to work.  I could easily have walked past his art on my way from the Blue Line to Union Station on one of my visits home to see family.

So even though I didn’t know him, I wanted to mention his art and his passing here.  Because really, he’s not that much different from a lot of the kids I did know on the Chicago streets.  Not a lot different from any of us.