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by LaRee Freeman
April 25,1999

        Graffiti constitutes "marks upon a wall made by an individual or individuals (not generally professional artists) upon a wall or other surface that is usually visually accessible to the public." (Phillips 1) Throughout the years Graffiti, a form of art derived from the seventies, has created a successful display of one's talent viewed on public or private property. This controversial art form has created an image which, expressed through a "mural" or "piece" is painted in a community. Young individuals sharing the same views and opinions use graffiti as a powerful tool of expression proving that art can shine through in many impoverished areas where graffiti is prone. Graffiti is considered vandalism by some, but is an up and coming art form that is going to take the twenty- first century by storm by, expressing the culture within a community.

        "Taggers" and graffiti artists find release of personal inhibitions about life through experimentation in art. Young people in their early teens are looking for some area in their lives where they may have a sense of acceptance or approval. Some of these youths are finding their hidden talents through graffiti art. When growing up in impoverished areas throughout cities, where art school can seem brim having the city walls as your canvas offers solutions. These potential artists are making a stand with their ever so controversial art form that focuses on specific ideas or images, that is felt within a community. A "tag" is usually the name of an  individual scribbled on a public or private piece of property. Young men and women who call themselves  "taggers" are starting to claim a voice and are learning to celebrate their talent  in the urban areas of our country.  "Taggers" are seen as people who take the "art" of tagging more seriously than other art forms. Some see "Tagging" as an influential sign of a budding artist. A potential "tagger' may " want to learn how to use the tools of art, like color, shape form and texture and most important the history of art and graffiti" (Bojorquez, p.84)  when expressing themselves to their peers and most importantly the public. Graffiti is usually done on empty spaces, and offers a release of artistic abilities without spending little or no money.

        The image of art for most people does not fit the vandalized walls that graffiti envelops. Society is not aware of how an artistic mind thrives for when free to express itself. They see it only as manifesting itself in poor neighborhoods. These individuals only see graffiti as a frustration and not something they would ever enjoy or possibly consume.  To some, art is not a word that describes graffiti; it is usually looked upon as a menace of sort. The graffiti  artist's, or  "taggers" are looked upon as criminals. They are seen as dangerous and to some even appalling. They're noticed only by their appearance and not by the talent that they possess. Although, tagging has been looked upon as a criminal act for many years, tagging is still very hard to except as a form of art for most people, but by viewing graffiti through it's various stages you will see a huge leap from "tagger" to artist. One young "tagger' says, " I got started in the third grade. I was eight or nine years old. I'm thirteen now. I started off as a "tagger" or "writer." (Quintall 1)   By giving young people a public space to create art, something that these taggers" or potential graffiti artist do not have or cannot afford, gives these youths a positive place to do it in. Graffiti, through vandalism will remain unless there is something we do about it. These kids are willing to do anything to get their work out  there and for people to take notice of what they are doing. Which is the powerful art that identifies what the artist goes through in everyday life. This is one of the main points of the art of Graffiti. If business owners and others in the community allow potential artists to display art on their buildings, this may possibly attempt to alleviate some conflicts due to graffiti. Unfortunately, these artists will continue to make their marks with or without permission, but by accepting them, a community can show respect and acceptance of one's need to express art.

        The communities' involvement in allowing graffiti to remain is highly crucial to the artist. In the neighborhoods where graffiti is prone we see a huge interaction of both community and artist. This relationship is definitely seen through a graffiti "piece" of art, that is usually displayed in the city's shadows. Certain business owners offer artists the outside of their building to create their art. In return the business owner can prosper successfully in a place where graffiti is widely accepted. This continued success has kept graffiti flowing for many years. Graffiti is meant to be looked upon by many people. It is a form of art that needs to be advertised property. Unfortunately graffiti art is usually only shown illegally. The certain communities where graffiti is admired make it extremely easy for the artist to become successful at his or her trade. This gives the artist hope for the future and a safe way in becoming successful.

        The downfall of graffiti art in most communities, is the "crews" that share the constant vandalism that takes place around graffiti. Taggers and graffiti artists are known to be linked to "crews" or gangs that could represent  violence. A thirteen-year-old "tagger' says this about his crew. "It's like a family to belong to a crew. They watch your back and you watch theirs. You kick it everyday with them." (Quintall1).   It is considered of high standing to belong to a "crew." The so-called "crews" are working together as a team to make sure their art is everywhere. Although business owners look and accept graffiti as an art form, there is no doubt that  violence does occur around graffiti. Since graffiti art is considered dangerous, an artist or group of artists are known to take any risk possible in getting their " pieces up." Freeways and high rises are famously known for all sorts of graffiti. The city limits are usually considered open game to various types of markings. This continuance of graffiti, which occasionally leads to vandalism, seems to build up the "crew" to great standards amongst the community.

        Graffiti is an art that symbolizes togetherness and community involvement. Although, we may have our differences in art, one cannot discriminate graffiti from a gallery piece in a museum. Now, thanks to experimental art, graffiti is starting to fiII museums. It would be considered unfair to judge someone else's self-expression with graffiti as with any other form of art. It cannot be judged or misrepresented as anything but this. For that is all it is, an art that has progressed, and has been represented on community walls in urban- areas. Graffiti is a misused and misrepresented form of greatness that will someday be considered valuable and be enjoyed by all.


Bojorquez, Chaz "Any Drawn Line That Speaks About Dignity And Unity Is Art."

Phillips, Susan A. The Dictionary of Art. Macmillan Publishers  (In Press). 1996

Quintalla, Michael. "War of the Walls (in two parts)."  The Times Mirror Company, Los Angeles Times, July 14,1993, Wednesday.

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SFSU Student Essays reproduced with permission of the Student(s).
All Student Essays were submitted by Professor L. Barroca, San Francisco State University.
Copyright, 1999, All Rights Reserved
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