Grafitti is cool

By By Clayton Norlen

By Clayton Norlen

Police look at it as vandalism, maintenance looks at it as more work, agitators look at it as inspiration and to many graffiti can be art.

Whatever your definition of graffiti is, it warrants your attention whenever you are confronted with it–precisely what the artist wanted. Mission accomplished. Graffiti confronts you in the streets and at the bus stop, and around campus it is an opinion that can be silenced only with a high-powered sand blaster and a considerable amount of elbow grease. It’s not like CNN–that can be silenced with a click of a button.

It’s because of graffiti’s permanence that I never see it as an eyesore, but a celebration of public opinion. On campus, the art comes and goes depending only on maintenance’s ability to clean it. We’ve had pot leaves and the face of Buddha adorning Legacy Bridge in the past. In front of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Building is a lesson in capitalism, and by the baseball field you find the businessman, “In Decline.”

Granted, there are statements and meanings behind graffiti around the city that I doubt I could ever grasp the significance of. I’ve never been hip to what overlapping multicolored lines mean. But that doesn’t mean that graffiti doesn’t carry significance for the artist who left it and those that can identify with it.

Throughout history, graffiti has had numerous uses. It is used for memorials, as symbols for social and political messages, advertising and to mark territory.

The graffiti that is worthwhile on campus is typically done using a stencil and spray-paint, which explains why you always see the artists’ work, but never hear about them being caught. Stenciled graffiti is a natural reaction to law enforcement’s attempts to keep graffiti off public property. It’s quick, visible and permanent–I don’t think you could ask for anything more as an artist.

According to Officer Aubrey of the Salt Lake County Police Department, vandalism is considered a Class B misdemeanor. Depending on the judge you appear before, it could be accompanied by up to $1,500 in fines. Of course, if you were caught in the act, all the police can do is issue a citation and order a court date.

Stencils, a quick look to see if all is clear and 30 seconds to apply paint suddenly gives berth to a permanent statement. I doubt any law enforcement outside of a police state could prevent stenciled graffiti from taking place.

Graffiti is a tool for resistance, a way of making an unavoidable statement to the masses of a community. Love it or hate it, I doubt it will ever disappear. Why not embrace it and think about why someone would risk fines to leave a visual message? Was it youthful angst or an activist forcing you to consider other possibilities?

Whatever the reasons, the artist’s message and influence will outlive even this article.