A wall of one's own
Graffiti artists aren't criminals; they just need a place to express themselves
I was arrested when I was 13 years old for doing graffiti at Crittenden Middle School. Part of my punishment was 24 hours of community service and a $300 fine.
Although at first I did not take getting caught seriously, I came to realize it was hurting my family. They were disappointed in me and could be forced to pay more money if I got caught again. So I promised myself I would not do it again. Now I keep my art on paper.
Is it fair that graffiti artists should be afraid of getting arrested every time they create art? Graffiti is an art form, but to the public it seems like vandalism because it is mostly done on property that the artists do not own.
To avoid this conflict, we should have a designated place where artists can express themselves freely. The designated area would be a wall in a public park, or the side of an apartment building, or wherever the community thinks it is OK. This location should be some place where people could reach it easily. Both the public and the artists would benefit from having a designated place for art.
This artistic area would be important for the public because it would cut down on the graffiti in other places. It would be a relief for the artists to be able to express themselves freely without breaking the law. The public would benefit because the art would encourage people to think more about what is going on in the world. This place would be enjoyable for both the public to visit and the artists to create. The public would be fascinated to see imaginative art and the artists would be having fun doing their own designs.
This designated area for graffiti would be good for everyone, but many steps are needed to make it happen. First, there should be a community survey to find where this area could be located. Second, there should be a letter written to the City Council to see if this idea and specific area could be approved. In addition, guidelines on what could and could not be done would be required. Both the artists and the public would need to define the guidelines. Every once in a while they could meet again and see how these rules were working and, if needed, could change them.
Anyone could go to this "Art Wall" to express their art; not only graffiti artists but also painters, sketchers, poets or people who have a statement to make. This art wall would not be vandalism; it would be "fine art." To some beholders it would be fine art immediately, and over time more people might grow to appreciate these types of art. Also, over time, spectators could become creators and add to the ongoing process. The art wall would be like a free exhibit.
In my view, this art wall would bring the community and artists together, make graffiti art legitimate, and allow graffiti artists to create their art freely and openly.
Jose Villanueva is a junior at Mountain View High School. This piece was written as part of the JustREAD program, and was originally published last May in The Oracle, the school's student newspaper.