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Art, but not as you know it!

By Stefan Pazur
Created 09/05/2009 - 09:19

Art, but not as you know it!
by Stefan Pazur

Many people in NSW view certain types of street art as a form of artistic expression. They also view that when it's done illegally with purpose of defacing property through messy tags this serves no purpose but to cause conflict in the community. It definitely does for many of us.

Stories making the headlines in recent months include the sentencing of 18-year-old Chayane Back over a tagging incident in Sydney's Hyde Park. Another recent story tells of the arrest and sentencing of 18-year-old Matthew Sale, for blocking train signals on the Western Train line with a group in early 2009. Unfortunately this is currently the only method that punishes those who ruin the reputation of genuine mural aerosol artists.

Figures released by the Attorney General's Department indicated “that councils applied different rules when reporting illegal graffiti.” The information showed that 64 percent of all graffiti incidents were documented. Fourteen percent documented major incidents, while nine percent only counted graffiti had been removed. Eighteen percent of these reports were incidents that occurred on properties owned by councils, with few of these actually reported to police.

Attempts to encourage “legal” graffiti walls haven't necessarily worked. In March 2008 council representing the Blue Mountains removed a legal wall after a reduction in funds based on results outlined in the Attorney General's report earlier that year.

The audit by the Department suggested that the introduction of sanctioned graffiti areas through the “Beat Graffiti” program in NSW had not reduced the overall problem of illegal graffiti tagging.

On March 2008 the Blue Mountains council removed one such designated area after its grant money was cancelled.

Mayor Jim Angel said, “Unfortunately, without the 'Beat Graffiti' funding, Blue Mountains City Council is unable to maintain the legal graffiti wall and the Aerosol Art Reference Group that monitored the appropriate use of the site.”

The Blue Mountains Council informed local street artists of the changes before the introduction of NSW's new graffiti law [1] in late November 2008.

“Young people need to know it is an offence to be caught carrying spray cans, markers and painting public or private property unless they are authorised to do so. If caught by police, they will need to show proof of authorization,” Councillor Angel said.

For the past twenty-five years a mural group has been present in the Western Sydney area. Jasy, who runs the Mural aerosol art group around the Blacktown area, says, “We have a good and positive relationship with the council and the local community, the police are not hard on us and would usually speak to us if some one gave them a call.”

Some of the mural art projects the group has created around the area include the Quakers Hill shops, Seven Hills car park and the mural at New Dimensions Gym at Mount Druitt among others.

The question remains, should law-biding aerosol street artists be classified in the same group as vandals? I would say the answer is definitely not. These groups like the one Jasy runs not only promote better communities through quality mural street art but also provide positive guidance and direction to young people in becoming responsible citizens. Groups such as these are actively helping to tackle vandalism by assisting the authorities and their local communities.

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