In Context: 5 Web Perspectives On A Story In The News

Toronto mayor pushing graffiti-free city

(The Globe and Mail) Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is pushing a campaign to remove graffiti from all major buildings. Not-for-profit agency Evergreen raised the question of whether or not graffiti is art after it received a summons, which citied violations of the graffiti removal provisions of the municipal code. Ford received a number of complaints about Evergreen because several of its buildings are covered in graffiti-like murals. However, the graffiti cannot be removed without consent from Evergreen, the City of Toronto and the Ontario Heritage Trust. This is because the Evergreen buildings are protected under a 2002 heritage designation and a 2008 heritage easement. Evergreen maintains that the graffiti should stay, not only because it is artistic but also because removing it would damage the century-old buildings. The mayor's arts adviser says a discussion of exactly what constitutes graffiti should be added to the agenda of a panel reviewing the city's arts and culture policies.


The writing on the wall

Art Crimes
Art Crimes began in 1994 by graffiti enthusiast Susan Farrell, who teamed up with photographer Brett Webb. The website was the first graffiti website on the Internet and now hosts graffiti images from 445 different cities around the world. Art Crimes was supported out of the pockets of its founders in the beginning and also through the sales of graffiti media and merchandise. The website now receives approximately 50,000 hits per day and is funded through advertising. The site showcases graffiti images as art, and advocates for more art to be displayed in public places. The site hosts a number of links, which provide background information on the practice of graffiti and on graffiti as an art form. Art Crimes encourages visitors to advocate for the preservation of graffiti, especially when it appears in a historical context. Art crimes states that it does not condone vandalism or breaking the law, but it disputes the idea that graffiti is a criminal act.


Rapid removal

Graffiti Hurts
Graffiti Hurts is part of a grassroots education system, initiated by Keep America Beautiful Inc., which began with a grant from the Sherwin-Williams Company, makers of Krylon brand paint. Graffiti Hurts hosts a rapid removal page explaining the importance of graffiti removal to a community's well-being. According to Graffiti Hurts, graffiti is the most common form of property vandalism, and the longer the wait for removal, the more expensive it becomes. Graffiti Hurts shows charts and graphs, illustrating the costs of graffiti removal. The site displays the process of graffiti removal and the number of possible complications that can result, with embedded links that better explain the complexities of removal methods. Graffiti Hurts provides an explanation of everything that needs to be evaluated in order to carry out graffiti removal, including identifying the proper substance and surface, removal methods and aftercare.


Painting the image

The NoGraf Network
The NoGraf Network links a site to their homepage that displays a collection of letters addressing graffiti issues. The letters show a wide range of problems caused by acts of graffiti. The NoGraf Network began with Doug Smith, a software producer from California. Smith created the website in response to the critical mass of graffiti in his neighbourhood, and as a means for communicating with other anti-graffiti advocates worldwide. The website displays these communications on their letters page, which shows a number of reasons why graffiti causes problems for municipal governments, law enforcement and neighbourhoods. This page brings out the emotional side of the issue. It shows the struggles created by graffiti for ordinary individuals, highlighting the idea that graffiti affects entire neighbourhoods, not just property-owners.


Getting educated about graffiti

Vandal Watch
This website is maintained by Vandal Watch, a not-for-profit society based out of British Columbia. Vandal Watch links this page about graffiti to its homepage, which seeks to educate the public about the act. According to Vandal Watch, graffiti is not a form of art but strictly an act of vandalism and crime. Vandal Watch provides a number of definitions of graffiti practices, including definitions and examples for terms such as tagging, tagging crews, gang-graffiti, hip-hop and wild style. Vandal Watch also maintains on their graffiti page that active taggers display a lack of social conscience, and state that their mission is to better educate graffiti enthusiasts and taggers in their community. The website provides a lot of background information on the actual practice of graffiti and gives an explanation of what each individual act really means. This website generates a better understanding of the actual act of graffiti and the reasons for it, as opposed to just taking a stance on whether or not it's a crime.


Graffiti archaeology

Graffiti Archaeology
This website was created by graffiti enthusiast Cassidy Curtis in 2005. The site, still maintained by Curtis, seeks to present the archaeological side of graffiti acts and practices. The site hosts a gallery of images that show the process of sociological change in a neighbourhood through graffiti images. Curtis assembled photo essays with pictures of graffiti in the same areas during different time periods. The photos on this site, as well as some of the research provided by the author, show that graffiti can have long-term social and historical impacts on neighbourhoods. Graffiti Archaeology brings out the more cultural aspects of graffiti and proves that it can serve an artistic purpose within a society. The website also includes a list of recommended books that speak to the cultural and artistic aspects of graffiti.

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