City Paper is not for tourists
Aimee Agresti’s piece on the legal graffiti mural on Connecticut Avenue and S Street (“Brilliant Corner,” 12/7) was refreshing. Her article is a perfect example of the respect that graffiti has been steadily gaining as an art form. Graffiti has overcome public misperceptions and generalizations that characterize it as gang-related vandalism, and people are now recognizing graffiti for the artistic talent and creativity behind the movement. Graffiti has developed into an entire culture, as the focuses of Agresti’s piece, Roger Gastman (aka CLEAR) and Zephyr, can attest. Zephyr was instrumental in the development of the graffiti scene in New York City, the generally accepted birthplace and certainly the heart of graffiti culture. Gastman compiled Free Agents, a book detailing the history of D.C. graffiti, some of which he experienced firsthand. Today, people are finally beginning to appreciate the positive aspects of graffiti as they see that it can be a constructive activity, and more projects like the one on Connecticut and S should be established in the future.
No one who drives down U Street can miss the colorful productions that enliven what would otherwise be dingy allies. And at Stead Park at 16th and P Streets NW, what was once a dull cinder-block wall is now a full-scale colorful mural with a Wizard of Oz theme overlooking the park’s basketball courts. The mural stands thanks to an all-weekend effort last spring put together by Gastman and other local graffiti artists, and they were actually painting over a production done many years ago that had faded. The detail and skill involved in the mural make a visit to the wall (or any of the others that can be found throughout D.C.) indeed very similar to a trip to an art museum. Those who condemn graffiti in all its forms do not understand it. The energy that rests within the graffiti movement is screaming to be channeled. In a time when violence and crime pervade society and the restless youths of our city search for constructive activities, channeling this energy can be done quite innocuously. Certainly, spray-painting designs on otherwise unused and unsightly walls is less threatening than other activities that people end up getting involved in. It is time we value graffiti as a valid avenue of self-expression by urging the city to establish more opportunities throughout D.C. for aspiring young artists to legally express themselves.