Saturday, January 10, 2009

Council Declares War on Graffiti Art

Our City Council has proposed a graffiti ordinance. The ordinance states that any property owner or manager who fails to remove graffiti within two days of receiving an order from the city (four days from the date of mailing if the order is mailed) will be fined $100 for the first offense. Subsequent offenses within two years have greater fines, up to $500. The ordinance further states that each day the graffiti remains is a separate offense.

Suppose someone paints the word 'peace' or an artistic peace sign on your building or garage. Maybe you like it and would like to leave it. Under this ordinance you do not have that right. If you refuse to remove it the city can clean or paint your wall and bill you for the cost.

Not everyone finds graffiti so offensive. Just Google “Ann Arbor graffiti alley” most of the postings are favorable. Discussing painting over one of the walls in graffiti alley University of Michigan Art and Architecture Prof. Janice Paul said that graffiti is a common component of many public murals and that whitewashing is "destructive and shocking." "I consider it (the removal) vandalism , if the (graffiti) is established for a long time," (Ann Arbor News article)

President elect Obama does not seem too upset over graffiti. In a Washington Post interview with graffiti artist Shepard Fairey, Fairey stated: . . . "I've been arrested," "I really want him to win, so I didn't want to do anything that would cause him problems."

Fairey produces a letter from Obama. "Dear Shepard," the candidate writes. "I would like to thank you for using your talent in support of my campaign. The political messages involved in your work have encouraged Americans to believe they can help change the status quo. Your images have a profound effect on people, whether seen in a gallery or on a stop sign."

Our city spends many thousands of dollars commissioning art in public places. The library holds an annual Teenage Graffiti Art Contest but Council wants to fine citizens for possession of graffiti. Isn't this a little off the wall?

I encourage all citizens, particularly those in the art community that do not want a sterile lifeless city, to email their Council members and express opposition to this proposed ordinance. But do so before the final vote on the ordinance January 20. Graffiti can be a form of public art in Ann Arbor.

There is further information, and a copy of the proposed ordinance at Citizen's News Service.

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