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A Great City Program Replaces Vandalism with Street Art

You know what is a proven and effective graffiti deterrent?   Street art.  You can spend millions of dollars on anti-graffiti task forces and cleanup crews, but if you really want taggers to leave a wall alone, your best bet is to pay a local artist a few thousand bucks to paint something great on it.  Why?  Because graffiti artists (and even most taggers) respect street art.  Putting up murals is the best way to deter taggers from throwing up all over your building.  Oh! And did we mention that murals also beautify your neighborhood and add culture and vibrancy to a city?

Michelle Fleck’s mural for 285 Bartlett Street

StreetSmARTS is a joint program of San Francisco Public Works and the Arts Commission, pairing artists with private property owners who have received Notices of Violation for the removal of graffiti on their buildings.  In SF, the city puts the onus of graffiti removal on the building’s owner, if you don’t get rid of the graffiti on your building, you get fined.   So it’s great that the city is also providing a positive, artful, alternative solution for victims of graffiti, and not just a threat of a fine.

“With StreetSmARTS, we are able to take blank walls that get blighted by graffiti and turn them into vibrant art for the whole community to enjoy,” said Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru. “The City spends $20 million a year to combat graffiti vandalism, and we know from past experience that murals are an effective deterrent. Working with artists and property owners to tackle the blight is a wise investment.”

Want to spray paint a wall without breaking the law? Checkout canvassf.com. They throw street art parties where you get to paint all you want.

The difference between ‘tagging/graffiti’, and ‘street art’ is debatable, but it’s also pretty clear to most of us.  The image above has mostly examples of ‘tagging’ graffiti.  Taggers will write repetitive words or symbols with spray paint or pens as a way of promoting themselves or a group.  It usually takes very little skill or artistic merit.  Tagging graffiti is a kind of competition between other taggers of ‘who can get their names on more surfaces in a city’, or control of a certain area.   Although ‘tagging’ graffiti is mostly ugly, juvenile, shit, in some cases great street artists have begun their artistic training by writing on walls, so it does play a role in street art culture.   But real street art (in contrast) typically comes in the form of painted murals or sculpture, and it has a composition, it has a purpose, it does something other than self-promotion.   San Francisco, thank god, knows the difference, and our arts commission is doing something real positive for the city with a program that actively replaces vandalism with art.

Cameron Moberg’s mural at 2070 Mission Street

According to the SFAC: “Cameron Moberg’s mural at 2070 Mission Street depicts a brightly colored and patterned bird flying above a San Francisco cityscape. During the process, Moberg bonded with the property owners Yan Kit and Judy Cheng, and the mural became a way for him to give back to the neighborhood he loves.”

Michele Fleck’s colorful mural located at 285 Bartlett Street, “explores the intersection of nature and the manmade.” Geometric shapes frame the building’s garage doors, which feature plant forms springing from the sidewalk. According to the artist, “this mural was an opportunity to expand the themes found in my studio practice onto a larger scale. The shapes and imagery interact with the architecture of the building on which they are placed, and vibrant colors convey a sense of energy and flux.”


Want to find more SF street art?  Checkout sfstreetart.com

Want to be part of the StreetsmArts program?  Checkout www.sfartscommission.org/information-for/murals

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Alex Mak - Managing Editor

Alex Mak - Managing Editor

I'm the managin' editor here at Broke-Ass Stuart. When we're not writing, editing, or publishing articles, Stuart and I are promoting the good things in SF & NYC.

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