Business Owners Are Using Graffiti To Prevent Graffiti. A New Book Examines How.

As an art form, graffiti has certainly climbed the rungs of prestige since the days in the ’70s when it was generally considered to be an eyesore and a form of vandalism, primarily by those who didn’t live in the neighborhoods where tagging was born. And, while wall etchings and art emblazoned along non-traditional surfaces like buildings has been around throughout history, graffiti in its most identifiable form is that which is entwined with Hip-Hop culture – bright colors, intricate lettering, tag names, spray-painted murals, and the like. These days, graffiti has been embraced as a cultural aesthetic, and by now, seeing buildings splashed with murals is no longer a cause for disdain (at least for most). However, graffiti also retains its gritty and fundamental ingredient, tagging. That rite of self-identification by the tagger, of spraying one’s name on any surface that comes along, remains prevalent and while to most it has become so ubiquitous as to not even be noticed, there are those for whom tagging is damaging, but in a creative way of giving one a taste of his own medicine, many are using graffiti-based art to prevent tagging from happening.

In his new book, Graffiti Murals: Exploring the Impacts of Street Art, Patrick Verel explores the intersection of graffiti and socioeconomics. By examining the ways in which small business owners, owners of buildings, and residents of neighborhoods react to the sight of tagging, it becomes clear that wayward graffiti can affect people’s perceptions and in many cases cause a tangible lack of revenue for those who operate in tagged buildings. This has led to many folks opting to fight fire with fire, specifically by decorating their buildings with graffiti and murals of their own in a preventative measure to discourage taggers from hitting up their walls.

graf mural

Verel’s book goes beyond just documenting the many examples and takes it several steps beyond by framing this movement within the context of an entire city. “Six case studies conducted in New York City, Trenton, and Jersey City, explore how graffiti murals are created and what role they play in a city where buffing illegal graffiti is a lucrative business,” says the book’s publisher, Schiffer. “The author interviewed people affected on a daily basis by the murals at sites around the metropolitan area, as well as property owners who have allowed muralists to paint their property in hopes the graffiti murals would serve as a deterrent to vandalism—and provide a more aesthetically pleasing alternative to buffing.”

Considering the conditions in which graffiti rose to prominence, and that, by design, tagging is meant to appear in places where it shouldn’t, do you think the efforts of those examined in the book are fighting an uphill battle? Or, is there an unspoken, treasured agreement between artists that makes their strategy effective?

Read More: “The Art of Encouraging Graffiti” at CityLab

Related: Graffiti Writers’ Work Is Being Threatened, But Some Artists Are Fighting Back