Detroit Revitalization: Graffiti Art or Vandalism?

Aug 13, 2012

Detroit Graffiti
Photo via I love Detroit Michigan

There is an ongoing debate on whether graffiti is street art or vandalism.  In some cases it’s both and some cases it’s neither, so where do you draw the line and how do you determine whether you should preserve the art or remove the vandalism?  This is the question we have for you today.

Graffiti is art:

There are many opportunities to classify graffiti as art.  Like many pieces of art, graffiti is often used as a medium to express emotions and generate discussion.  After watching this video on Graffiti in New Center there is clearly a  message being communicated along this railroad near our New Center building. There is even a blog dedicated to showcasing graffiti in Detroit.

I Love Detroit Michigan is supporting a Detroit Beautification project which allows artists to legally tag buildings. The goals of this project are to raise community spirits and brighten up these areas of Detroit.  Most of these projects are completed as a collaborative effort between several artists and supporters.

Graffiti is vandalism:

While graffiti done with the right intentions can be conversational and uplifting, it can also be used negatively.  Graffiti is more often associated with vandalism.  Gangs use graffiti as a way to mark territories and show a visual defiance to authority.  The visual appearance of graffiti done in this manner can make the community feel unsafe, and the area look abandoned.

Graffiti on the Old Nabisco Building: 

U-Haul NBC Building Graffiti
U-Haul NBC Building Graffiti

We appreciate that graffiti can be more meaningful locally, so we wanted to learn more about the tags on our building.   Our primary concerns are making sure that no inappropriate messages are on the building and that our building is seen as a safe place for anyone to frequent.  That usually means we don’t have buildings with graffiti art, but then again there are notable exceptions such as our signage in Corpus Christi.

We will consider whether to keep or remove this graffiti carefully and thoughtfully, but we’d like to hear what you think. Do you know anything about the graffiti on our building? What does it mean to you?

~TJ

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