It’s not as absurd as it seems. Graffiti can indeed be art.
Many cities — Los Angeles is a prime example — boast spray-painted murals arguably as beautiful as anything hanging in a modern art museum. They liven up otherwise drab concrete and add character to neighborhoods in dire need of it.
It makes us wonder if that approach would help alleviate our vandalism problem in Tracy. The number of graffiti reports fielded by police so far in 2009 has more than doubled in comparison to the same time frame a year ago, and police and vigilant residents can only do so much.
Wouldn’t it be nice if these taggers, instead of making a name for themselves as spray-painting hacks on the streets, made a name for themselves as real, respected artists?
Imagine the city agreeing to turn over stretches of cinderblock sound walls to talented youngsters, or chunks of vibrantly painted concrete sitting as part of the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts’ next gallery exhibit.
Unfortunately, that’s not the kind of constructive bent most of these taggers are wont to take. Because that would largely defeat the purpose of what they’re doing — establishing a niche within a distinct subculture while thumbing their noses at authority.
While one or two might jump at such a chance, a constructive outlet such as a show at the Grand Theatre would not satisfy these other desires. And let’s face it, taking initiative to talk to people at City Hall or the Grand is not exactly the modus operandi of tagging crews.
Until the day comes when Tracy’s illegitimate spray-painters choose a canvas that’s not the property of someone else, what they’re doing is vandalism. And woe to those who can’t make that painfully obvious distinction.
So some advice to our friends wielding the aerosol cans: If you want to be hunted down by police, keep on doing what you’re doing. If you want to be considered an artist, act like one.