What exactly constitutes a building being painted to depict a visual it was never intended to showcase as ‘street art’, as opposed to the slightly more negative-sounding ‘graffiti’? Starting in the late 1960s as a result of a simple experiment run by Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo, a concept that would become known as “Broken Windows” was born.
Zimbardo’s research showed that urban areas that simply looked neglected or uncared for were more prone to crime. For many city officials and police departments, graffiti was a leading sign that tagged a region (pardon the pun) as one that needed cleaning up.
Around the world there are thousands of examples of building owners and artists working together to present visual spectacles for all members of their community to enjoy. In some American cities, what many would classify as traditional, ‘unwanted’ graffiti – spray cans used to paint walls with messages and visuals – is actually something that can be considered a sign of something good, not bad.
In his book Graffiti Murals: Exploring the Impacts of Street Art, photo-journalist Patrick Verel makes the argument that artists working in conjunction with property owners can bring an added sense of community and togetherness through art.
Of course, the key here is the cooperation of the artists and those that have the legal right to allow a building or wall to be painted. Beauty will always be in the eye of the beholder, and one person’s art is another person’s graffiti – often regardless of whether the work in question is there legally or not.
Story by Jay Moon