While driving to school one day I stopped at a stop light and noticed the side of entire building next to me was covered in an assortment of colors; florescent green, yellow, deep purple and black. It read one word; “SEIZE”. It’s all around us. Whether we see it or choose not to see it, it is there. Graffiti. On the streets of San Jose almost at every corner you can see the trails of graffiti artist. I immediately knew this is what I wanted to do my research project on. Graffiti is something that impacts everyone, from the artist down to the tax payer. So I set out to find the answers to my questions. Why do people do graffiti? What do people think of graffiti? What are the consequences not only for them but for our community?
“Graff”, to people who create graffiti, is more than just an art form it’s a way of life. After my interviews I learned that graffiti has created a community within our own. There is the graffiti that is known as “tagging” that can been seen to represent gangs and gang members. This is what most people associate the term graffiti with. Apparently there is a whole other group of individuals who are in no way associated with gangs who do graffiti. These are the group of individuals and their art work I will be focusing on. Within this community lays a realm of regulated art work, ranking, secrecy, and possibly a way out of the ghetto. In no way are you allowed to go over someone’s work, unless of course yours is better, this will be considered a “diss”. Individual’s work that does not meet expectations is called “toy”. The phrase “he gets up” expresses praise in someone’s dedication to putting their name up often. There was so much to learn when hearing about the lingo. But what I really wanted to know was, why? I spoke to a member of a local crew and he explained to me that “Graff” was the only thing he was ever good at. He failed out of school and worked a minimum wage job and did graffiti on his spare time. Eventually he would be offered to do paid jobs from local shop owners. He stated, “to get paid to have my work put up was the greatest feeling ever” (anonymous, 2012). He has now begun to branch out in creating clothing with his art work. This business he has created has started to do well and has given him an opportunity to better his life. Doing Graff to him became his only means of survival. The only way he could possibly have any type of future.
To a majority of the people I spoke to Graff is a means of life. Although they are aware that it is a crime. They claim that their art does not cause harm to anyone. I wanted to know what harm, if any, does Graffiti cause to our community. The City of San Jose has devoted a lot of time and not to mention a lot of money in its efforts to clean up the graffiti in the city. It has adopted its anti-‐Graffiti and litter program which is the city’s prime defense against vandalism and litter. This program contains a total of 3600 volunteers (The City of San Jose,2012) who work to together to prevent and clean up graffiti and litter. The City of San Jose also has partnered with Graffiti Proactive Coatings, INC. to clean up a majority of the cities graffiti. In the City’s semiannual report for 2011 the city reported a total of 1,120,774 square feet of cleaned up graffiti just in the first half of 2011. More importantly this cost the city .40 cents per square foot (The city of San Jose, 2012). Totaling 448,309.60, this is a lot of tax payer’s money! Another tactic the city has to fight Graffiti is its Graffiti tracking Data base. It is equipped with applications that can be downloaded from any smart phone that will allow you take pictures of graffiti that will automatically recorded in the San Jose Police Department database (office of council district 6, 2012). Clearly our city officials and some of our own citizens have devoted a lot of time as well as money on working to clean up and prevent graffiti. More importantly
graffiti has an impact on all citizens of our community in a variety of ways. Funds are taken from taxes that are payed by citizens to clean up graffiti. Graffiti depreciates the values of properties and raises the concern of gang activity.
Looking at both sides of the issue Graffiti artist and the community have been in battle with each other for a long time. Even though Graffiti is against the law I do feel that the art work is amazing a lot of people in the Graff community are talented and passionate about what they do. Maybe graffiti is just an art form that has been misrepresented by gangs. The person that I interviewed stated “taking away graffiti is taking away my freedom of expression” (anonymous, personal communication, 2012). This might be slightly true but I do feel that there are a lot of law abiding citizens that have payed more of their fair share to keep our community clean. There has to be a solution. I think that if we as a community can acknowledge graffiti as a true art form we could possibly open a museum for artist to display their work. Or if the city can designate buildings that Graffiti artist can do their work, it can be done legally. On the other hand if we want to stop spending so much funds on cleaning up the graffiti we can use those you have been charged with graffiti to clean up the work on the streets as a sentence. Maybe then they will realize how much work it takes to clean up what they have created. I am not sure if there will ever be a solution.
Works Cited The City of San Jose. (2012). Anti-‐graffiti and litter annual Program Semiannual Report [data file] Retrieved from: http://www.sanjoseca.gov/clerk/Agenda/20120228/20120228_0501.pdf The City of San Jose: Office of council District 6 “Graffiti tracking Database” retrieved from: