How many of you have passed by a boxcar, wall, or bridge covered in graffiti? I ask that you take a moment to think about what your first reaction was when you saw the graffiti. Was it disgust, indifference, or even appreciation?
Graffiti is stigmatized because the art form is typically viewed as vandalism. But what if graffiti artists didn't have to vandalize property to create their art? Graffiti art gained its bad reputation in the 1960s because of its association with gangs like the Crips and MS-13. This type of graffiti however, is gang related and for the most part was not an expression of art. Gang members use graffiti to mark their territory, declare their allegiance, and challenge their rivals. Gang graffiti is a form of graffiti should not be condoned, as it promotes violence and fear in our communities. There are, however, positive forms of graffiti. When done with good intentions, and as an expression of art, graffiti can bring communities together and ignite thoughtful conversations.
There has always been a debate on whether graffiti is art, but with street artists like Banksy, and Jean Michel-Basquiat making names for themselves in mainstream media, society has moved towards accepting graffiti as an artform. New graffiti artists are creating new pieces every day, hoping to make a name for themselves. It is of utmost importance that they have a space to legally showcase their artwork. For some artists, galleries and art shows are not an option. These artists would rather use the streets as their canvas. To adress the rise in illegal graffiti, also known as tagging, Dallas's first "free art" wall, the Fabrication Yard, opened in 2013. Its a safe and local space that photographers, musicians, and artists alike can use to express their creativity without the burden of criminal punishment. With over 200 reviews on Yelp, Google, and Facebook, It's quite easy to make the assumption that the free wall is doing a great job at its intended purpose, to serve a need for free artistic expression in our community.