Graffiti arrest sparks talk about what is street art
by BRIAN NADIG
Two city Department of Water Management workers helped police officers apprehend one of two men who reportedly were seen at about 2 p.m. Thursday, June 25, painting graffiti on a viaduct in the 4600 block of North Cicero Avenue, sparking a frenzy on social media about whether graffiti is a crime.
As the workers pulled up to the viaduct, both men reportedly fled, but one of them later returned to retrieve his bicycle and was arrested. The 28-year-old man reportedly had a spray paint can and a paint roller inside his backpack and was charged with a misdemeanor count of criminal defacement to property, according to 16th (Jefferson Park) District police.
Alderman Jim Gardiner’s Facebook posting thanking the city workers generated 416 comments.
"For all the ‘street artists’ with zero talent looking to practice writing letters of the alphabet on public property within our community, your actions are no longer tolerated!" Gardiner posted.
Gardiner said later that as alderman he will not tolerate vandals who "depreciate our community" but that he welcomes murals and other public art if those interested in creating them follow the proper procedures, including obtaining permission from the city and property owner.
"I have no problem working collaboratively with artists," he said.
The comments on Gardiner’s Facebook page varied.
"Thank you alderman for taking a tough stance on this. Too many others cower at these things! Props to those folks (who) stand up for the truth, justice and civility," one poster said.
"I understand that you have a job to do, and I take no issue with that. I’m curious if you feel it is necessary to say that someone has ‘zero talent.’ In the political and social climate that we all currently exist, comments like this are not solely classist judgments, they are Trumpian," another said.
Several posts praised the talents of street artists, including one man who said that he was once one of those untalented individuals who Gardiner describes and that he now works as a tattoo artist. Others questioned the need to "lock up" someone for painting on a viaduct.
"I agree some of these taggers have talent. Both my sons are musicians and they have awesome talent but they can’t plug-in with a generator under a viaduct or next to a building and blast rock music with their amps up to 11 without being cited for a sound ordinance. Right? These guys and any other taggers should go put their artwork on something they can sell and make money. … No one’s gonna buy artwork off of a viaduct wall," a man wrote.