not sure how he'll spend Mark Cuban's $100,000. Sam [Merten] reports back that Barr's big thing is getting citizens to drive around with their own cans and buckets of paint to cover up graffiti wherever they see it (after they take pictures of the offending graffiti, of course). Because right now, Barr says, the city's not doing a terribly good job of going after scofflaws. Or, as he told Sam: "I don't think my mom or your mom needs to drive by and read 'Fuck you.' It's insulting." Rogue!This blog has argued for years in favor of the non-criminal justice approaches to graffiti championed by Mr. Barr: Rapid cleanup at non-permission sites combined with providing areas where graffiti is permitted. Clearance rates for the offense are so low that simply relying on arrest and harsh punishment for graffiti isn't nearly as much of a disincentive as if the tags are painted over hours after they appear. Taggers are generally looking for spots where their work will "ride"; deny them that and the risk-reward ratio for the activity quickly changes.
He says he'll likely ask other businesses to do what he's been doing since moving from downtown to Oak Cliff in '03 -- a so-called bucket brigade. As he told Sam, he wants people to take responsibility "and put a log on the campfire." Barr also wants to establish an area where graffiti is permitted, so taggers have a place to do their thing. Because, he said, truth is he's not sure eradicating graffiti is "an attainable goal." Which won't stop him from doing his damned best.
I also welcomed his suggestion about establishing "an area where graffiti is permitted" in the city, but would caution that the whole stand-alone graffiti wall concept has had, at best, mixed success. Too often the neighborhoods to and from them also are subjected to tagging and they don't provide enough space, in enough diverse, visible areas, to siphon off graff writers if the city has a significant number of them. However, this blog has hypothesized that there's another, simpler method to provide permission areas in ways that bypass the shortcomings of stand-alone graffiti walls. As mentioned in September,
I've been advocating for quite a while on Grits that government begin to identify blank, under-utilized portions of the city landscape - underpasses, concrete drainage areas, even the backside of street signs - and allow street art there on a permission-based basis. ... Ideally, in this writer's opinion, the practice should be widespread, with available 'canvases' across every city and content only limited by obscenity laws and disallowing hate speech and known criminal street gang references.There are other things such a "graffiti czar" could do, such as coordinate between local artists and private property owners who want to commission free or paid murals on outward-facing walls as a prophylactic against graffiti. Partially because it's been the only approach in the past and so it's efficacy has somewhat maxxed out, spending more on police manpower, much less jails, courts and prisons, gets you limited bang for the buck compared to the much cheaper and more effective graffiti abatement methods of rapid cleanup and providing legal outlets. I wish the new "czar" luck, both in his new volunteer gig and in his (assuredly hopeless) effort to stop people from using the word "czar."
UPDATE (Dec. 20): My old college mate Robert Wilonsky excerpted the last three graphs from this post at the Dallas Observer's Unfair Park blog, and commenters offered up some interesting links. One pointed us to a permission wall project called the Venice Art Walls at Venice Beach, CA, which is "open to painting during daylight hours on weekends and City of Los Angeles holidays only." Another commenter said that Philadelphia reaches out to the "offending artists" and tries to rope them into the city's "Mural Arts Program," adding that "the murals are everywhere and many are gorgeous." Yet Another nominated this underpass near their home as a candidate for permission-based art, and it's hard to disagree just about any attempt at intentional art would be an improvement.
See related Grits posts:
- Toward a restorative graffiti policy
- Graffiti solutions: A cost-benefit analysis
- Kids do less art in school, more in street, Lege reacts with hammer
- Creating public spaces for invited art adds carrot to stick of banning uninvited graff
- Invited graffiti: Solution or enabling for unwanted tags?
- Paint responsibly: Museum offers hands-on graffiti exhibit
- Allowing invited graff best way to reduce unwanted graffiti
- Austin lags on important third component of graffiti policy
- Mexico prevents graffiti by encouraging it at El Azteca Stadium
- Moscow turns to invited graffiti to liven up Soviet era buildings