by Veronica Mungary.

"DESTINY", "POLLITO" and "LA RAZA" are just a couple of tag names that are made into a form of art known as graffiti in the Mission District, in San Francisco. Graffiti developed out of names, called tags that restless kids have scribbled all over neighborhoods. Graffiti, a Roman term, has developed into a "voice" for graffiti artists. It has become a form of self expression and a way to identify themselves to the community. Many argue that graffiti is art and it is a form of freedom of speech. On the other hand, I believe it's Vandalism and destructive to our community, costing people money to clean up what others consider art.

        Art is used as a form of freedom of speech. It has been used to express feelings, thoughts and frustrations. Whether it is expressed in a painting, collage, or drawing, the artist is creating a message for his/her audience. Living in America, the country that established the amendment being "freedom of speech," an amendment that allows every artist, politician, citizen, and resident the right to express themselves freely, giving the artist the right to create and illustrate what he wishes, we have the opportunity to achieve our dreams. Graffiti artists have taken advantage of their freedom, by disrespecting their community. Our community is composed of many cultures, races, and economic classes , as well as different methods of self expression. Graffiti artists have chosen a method that society considers to be vandalism.

        Art is a universal language that every culture shares and understands, creating an impact on your audience and society. According to Killian Tobin in his article " A Modern Perspective on Graffiti", "Artistic graffiti is a modern day offspring of traditional graffiti that has elevated itself from just scrawling words or phrases on a wall, to a complex artistic form of personal expression" (85). Every art piece created by the artist has a significant meaning or cry that the artist yearns to share with the public. Graffiti artists have the right to create what they are feeling and share it with the public, hence graffiti art is based on emotion and deep feelings. For instance, if they are angry with the world, their art piece reflects their anger. Whether graffiti is created to illustrate a name or a drawing with inscriptions, it is an admirable creation, that can be titled as art. The artist can identify himself to his community by his work of art. If he is angry, happy or sad, the world around him will share his emotion through his art work. According to Chaz Bojorquez, " Spiritually, the artist are tagging all of the walls and more importantly, at the same time tagging the mind of the viewer' (84). Graffiti artists are as talented as the well known artists of the Renaissance era, Picasso and Leonardo. These creative artists wanted to plant a seed in the viewers mind that would establish a reaction. For example, Leonardo's sculpture of "The David", constructed chaos when it was finally displayed for the the public's eye. The only difference is that unlike graffiti artists, Leonardo had the public's consent in creating his art piece.

        Graffiti can be illustrated as a beautiful piece of art. But when it is embedded on someone's property without consent, it is considered vandalism. Vandalism is a willful or malicious act on public or private property. Certain states treat vandalism as a serious crime and often charge and punish offenders as criminals. Although most graffiti offenders are between the ages of twelve and seventeen their punishment is up to sixty hours of community service. According to Joyce Murdoch a writer from The Washington Post , "Most of those who are caught are now required to do 20-60 hours of unrelated community service" (92). Vandalism is seen everywhere, broken car windows, stolen cars or car radios and graffiti throughout neighborhoods. Walking on the streets of San Francisco's Mission District, you can see homes, corner stores, vehicles and schools covered with graffiti, neighborhoods covered with white patches, trying to camouflage the graffiti embedded on their walls. Graffiti artists do not understand that their choice of displaying their art work is Vandalism. People feel violated when someone else takes it upon themself to change the appearance of their property. "I just see it as destruction of property, said Lisa Zucker, who coordinates a graffiti reporting and removal system for down town Bethesda" (Murdoch 91). Unfortunately, the kids who are committing the crime do not care how the owners feel; " One high school girl said it would be considered "rude" to put graffiti on private property. " But," she said, "I don't care about public property" (Murdoch 92). These kids do not understand that vandalism is not allowed whether it is public or private property.

        Graffiti is destructive and disturbing to the community. Graffiti is affiliated with gangs, hence most gang members are the ones violating the community with their form of art. Gangs disrupt the community by inflicting fear. People believe that if there is more graffiti around, the more fearful the neighbors will become of gangs. According to the article, " That Tired Old Graffiti Advocate Strategy", " Gangs are bad news for the community as a whole. When gangs are allowed to roam, it means death, shootings, stabbing, and turf wars" (81). Citizens fear graffiti because they relate it to gangs, in turn, causing them to feel unsafe and insecure of their environment. Everywhere you turn there is graffiti, walking to the bus stop or at your child's school. Graffiti intimidates people who are a part of the neighborhood. This type of in security causes the neighbors to become nervous and watchful for gangs that are ready to start trouble. What people do not understand is that graffiti does not just consist of painting someone's property, but it is the vandals committing the act that makes graffiti intolerable. Graffiti artists do not respect their community or their neighbors. Moreover, when trouble starts between other graffiti artists taking over their "turf', graffiti gang members are not going to care for the people around them. Therefore, damage, fear, and disrespect is what graffiti offers to communities that were once trustful and secure.

        Graffiti is not only vandalism and destructive to a community, but it causes people lots of money to clean up unwanted graffiti on their property. When a person hires someone to paint a building or a house, it is a contract. In a contract, you have the consent of the owner. Whereas graffiti artists take it upon themselves to change the appearance of someone elses' property. Many people spend thousands of dollars painting and repainting graffiti on their walls, windows and fences. In the article by Michael Quintanilla, he states a citizens opinion, " I don't think any of the graffiti guys would like for their first car-that maybe costs $1,000-to get dropped off, stolen and cut to bits. But that window cost as much as having a good used car. And for it to be torn up like that is destructive" (87). People work hard to own and buy nice things.

        Therefore, it is painful for something you've worked so hard for to get destroyed by graffiti vandals. Moreover, it is scandalous when graffiti artists come back and redraw what was just covered up with fresh paint the previous day. It's expensive to maintain your community free from graffiti, one homeowner states, "The bricks on my building are another story. You cant paint on them. I've got to get water or a sandblaster, and that equipment is expensive" (Quintanilla 87). Graffiti artist need to learn to respect what does not belong to them and realize that these people are apart of their community; it is not a community that consist of graffiti artists alone. Graffiti artists need to understand they are sharing the community with poor and rich families, families who can not always afford to keep their homes graffiti free.

        Graffiti has its many forms of beauty, the colors, emotions, and the imagination. Although the creators are talented young individuals, graffiti artists need to understand the damage they are causing to their community. There are other forms of expression in which graffiti artists can express their talent. For instance, drawing in an art book, for a school, and even for a museum; if they were to acquire other methods graffiti artists would be respected instead of being called "vandals." Vandalism is a serious crime, a crime that holds you responsible for causing damage to an individual, financially and emotionally. Graffiti artists need to stop thinking of themselves, and focus on the damage they are creating around them.


Works Cited

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

doug@dougweb.com. "That Tired Old Graffiti Advocate Strategy."
        Home page. 19 April .1999@http:Hwww.dougweb.com/pgrafhtml

Murdoch, Joyce. Washington Post Staff Writer,
        "New Role for Graffiti; Suburban Eyesores, Montgomery's Epidemic Gets More Virulent."

Quintanilla, Michael. "The Tagger: 'Creator; 'Its For The Chase and The Street Fame." War of the Walls.
        (Copyright 1993) The Times Mirror Company, Los Angeles Times, July 14,1993, Wednesday.

 Tobin, Killian. " A Modern Perspective on Graffiti. " (Copyright 1995). 19 April, 1999.

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