Graffiti vs Tagging: Is Either Acceptable?

graffiti, Kingston, OntarioDoes Kingston have a graffiti problem?  Does tagging fall under the same umbrella as stickering, stencilling, or evolving canvasses such as those behind the Grand Theatre?  What types of surfaces should be considered out of bounds?  These are the questions that have been floating around my head ever since a “gifted artist” decided to vomit their initials onto my fence.  The thought of this very minor instance of vandalism still enrages me, to such a degree that I have been fantasizing about catching the culprit mid-Sharpie, only to chase and violently tackle them on the pavement, making a memorable citizen’s arrest and earning an oversized novelty key to the city.  Do they really give those out, or is that only in the movies?

Back to the matter at hand: graffiti in Kingston.  In the past I have actually been a mild advocate for urban art in our city.  While the alley behind the Grand Theatre, wall along lower Wellington and various underpasses in Kingston seem to have collected quite a few illegally sprayed Piccasos over the years, I turned a blind eye because I didn’t think they were hurting anyone.  In a way, I still have a hard time hating the graffiti at these locations as they are out of the public eye, and on publicly owned property.  Further, none of these places happens to be my fence.

Tagging is a totally different beast in comparison to what I would categorize as graffiti.  Scribbling one’s initials or gang sign onto a fence, parking meter, or the sign at St. James Chapel is truly the work of the devil.  Further, in comparison to actual spray can graffiti, these works take next to no time to create, and tend to have a higher concentration on everything that could be considered a canvass.  While I am sure the people behind such works take pride in their efforts, surely their talents could be applied in a more productive, and acceptable manner.

When researching how to react when tagging and unwanted graffiti comes to your neighbourhood, I found a great prevention pamphlet on Downtown Kingston’s website.  It offers the following tips:

  1. Rapid Removal: Prompt removal is most effective method of deterring vandals. If the graffiti is removed within 24 hours after initial instances as well as re-occurrences, offenders will cease to waste their time and supplies as it undermines their efforts for peer recognition. New graffiti is also considerably easier to remove, as the paint will not have had adequate time to set.
  2. Exterior Upkeep: Keep the exterior of your building and surrounding area clean and tidy. An unkempt surrounding gives the impression that the owner is not attentive to the property and thus it becomes a target, in the hope that the tag will remain longer. Also, proper lighting lifts the cloaking that the night provides and thus deters potential vandals.
  3. Control Access: Limit access to rooftops by moving dumpsters away from walls. Plant shrubs, thorny plants or vines to restrict access, as well as cover exposed, blank walls.
  4. Chronically Hit Walls: Due to location and accessibility some walls are plagued with a much higher incidence of graffiti. For these cases other options include the application of an anti-graffiti protective coating or the commissioning of a mural. It is rare that a wall adorned by a mural will be tagged.
  5. Keep Your Eyes Opened: Report any suspicious activity directly to the police at 549-4660. Ask for the zone officer or foot patrol officer.

If you’re like me and have become a victim of tagging or graffiti, please be sure to check out the guide to removing graffiti from various surfaces, as well as what tools you may need.  So does Kingston have a graffiti or tagging problem?  Do you differentiate the two? Where are the city’s worst spots for unwanted art?  Should the city establish a legal wall where graffiti artists can practice their craft?  Please drop off a comment or two.

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  1. Shane March 23, 2011
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