Graffiti is in the news again. And why does the issue of art versus vandalism continue to pop up?
One obvious reason is that graffiti artists step over the boundaries of respectfulness and illegally deface private property. The recent example of graffiti at the corner of Marine Avenue and Alberni Street is just one example, partially covering one of Powell River's oldest street murals and presumably done in the middle of the night.
But another reason why the art versus vandalism debate continues to be discussed and misconstrued is many people do not understand graffiti art and how it, if done with proper permission, is just as valid a form of art as any other.
Whether you like its style or not does not matter. Art has always been subjective and we cannot denounce one form of art based on personal opinion.
Kudos to City of Powell River for forming a working committee to discuss public art, and for including one of our most accomplished graffiti artists, Stefan "Catnip" Fogarty, as a member. Fogarty, who recently had his own run-in with the law, will provide much-needed perspective.
In March 2016, when the Peak last tackled the idea of graffiti art in its cover story "Urban art sparks debate," acclaimed muralist and painter Luke Ramsey, who was then living in Powell River, explained the subtle difference between vandalism and graffiti.
“Graffiti is an energy, a subjective expression of love, hate, humour, rebellion, art, freedom and tagging for territory and sport,” said Ramsey. “Vandalism is an idea, a perception of property, law and ownership. Someone walks into an art-supplies shop and paints on a blank canvas with a price tag on it. Does the shop owner yell ‘vandal’ and contact the law or proclaim ‘art’ and try and sell the canvas or offer the artist an exhibition?”
Ramsey has spent the past year working for City of Victoria as its first ever Artist in Residence and has brought a number of high-profile, public-art pieces to fruition in the city. He has collaborated with other artists to create striking murals that balance nature with development, including an impressive piece on Dallas Road.
A working committee to define what public art means in Powell River is a productive start; continuing to provide opportunities for artists of all kinds will be even better.
Jason Schreurs, publisher/editor