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Is Graffiti Art Argumentative Essay

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Graffiti has always been a divisive issue for the public: some call it art and a subculture, others consider it to be the form of social protest, while still others are indifferent to the subject. The proponents of graffiti argue that it is an urban form of art that provides artists with anti-establishment platform for expressing their different to the mainstream ideology position and for bringing about social, political, or environmental change. Additionally, graffiti proponents believe in the harmless nature of this subculture which is also a supportive friendship network of people who aim at mastering their artistic skills.

The opponents of graffiti perceive all its pieces as illegal defacement of property. So, the opponents are against the legitimization of graffiti because perceive graffiti writers as vandals - individuals who damage other people’s property.

As an evidence, the opponents point to the research which found a three-year transition from nuisance graffiti offender to serious criminal offender (“I Don't Do It to Be Deviant” 49). 

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This paper, using the arguments from both sides, argues that it is important to differentiate between the forms of graffiti.

Spraying one’s car with paint is definitely an act of vandalism, while painting a silhouette of a child standing in front of the tank on the gates of the Westminster Abby in London, for example, can easily be considered a protest against war that the Western world supports and funds. Still, the issue of legitimization of graffiti remains an open question.

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The Arguments AGAINST Graffiti

Most often, the opponents of graffiti insist graffiti writers bring serious deterioration to neighborhood and decrease the sense of security of inhabitants. Some of the opponents even call graffiti a “scourge of society” because it evokes the fears of antisocial acts and criminal activity among the vulnerable members. Another problem here is the cost of removing graffiti signs and sprayings from buildings and benches. There is a definite number of voters who insist on severe punishment measures for graffiti writers.

For instance, the supporters of such measures point to the experience of Australia where city property offenders can be seriously fined and imprisoned (for adolescents the punishment is moderated) (“I Don't Do It to Be Deviant” 50). 

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Vanderveenm and Eijk conducted a study and found out that negative value arguments are mostly related to aesthetics, morality and law (115). The opponents of graffiti associate these writings and drawings with back streets, offensiveness, damage, defacement, poverty, and anti-social acts. Judging from the aesthetic point of view, the opponents find graffiti to be ugly, senseless, and of amateurish nature.

Finally, negative moral judgments include acts related to vandalism, property destruction or damaging, and illicit behavior.

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The Arguments FOR Graffiti and Recommendations for Solving the Problem

Those who support graffiti put forward the idea that graffiti is a subculture with diverse networks, which are created and promoted by graffiti artists as an alternate place where they live and create.

Graffiti subculture, the supporters explain further, condemns mainstream culture’s abuses of power and monetary greed (“I Don't Do It to Be Deviant” 51).

The proponents also insist on the ineffectiveness of punishment measures for graffiti artists stating that punishment will stigmatize offenders and even orientate them towards crime.

According to Vanderveenm and Eijk, people who express positive views about graffiti often state this art adds to the quality of life because of its aesthetic value (116).

As for the moral and legal side of the issue, the proponents argue there in nothing wrong if graffiti is placed in sites where it is allowed. In most cases, an economic judgment is omitted by graffiti supporters. 

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In general, the findings show that the essence of the problem with graffiti is referred to the poor awareness of the forms and meaning of graffiti among the public, media resources, and authorities. As a result, they are often unable to interpret different graffiti correctly and, thus, refer them to gang activities, disrespect for property and social norms, and threat to their safety. Another problem here is the absence of clear norms and regulations.

Vanderveenm and Eijk see the answer to the problem in openly discussing the problems of graffiti and the individuals who consider themselves graffiti artist. The authors argue that an open debate must be constructed in order to decide once and for all what forms of art are acceptable on public sites and what forms should be prohibited (110). The insight on the issue will help to democratize regulations and create the positively-oriented public space that will promote, not hinder one’s artistic abilities and aspirations. It seems wise in the given situation to remain neutral, as praising or condemning graffiti artists, given the lack of understanding and judgment of the matter, is risky, to say the least. 

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Pipkin suggests solving the problem by initiating the programs directed on making graffiti on walls, benches or buildings legal art (23). For instance, the researcher suggests using the experience of Virginia. Someone named Alec McDowell who happened to administer the activities of the Wakefield Skate Park, initiated a program which gave legal space for graffiti artists to express themselves.

When the program founder started inviting famous artists to participate in the program, he explained that his main and only aim was to “offer the children a chance to work and develop their artistic skills” (Pipkin 24). 

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Fortunately, the park program is not the only one: the Project for Public Spaces created a space for individuals where they can draw murals with paint. The initiative helps to prevent younger individuals from the acts of vandalism and damaging one’s private property. The conducted research found positive trend when multi-colored mural projects help discourage the illegal acts of painting on public objects. To continue, different city initiatives gather the interested individuals into one place and offer them a chance to learn and develop instead of simply spraying pant on bus stops and buildings, which would otherwise tempt graffiti artists.


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The research demonstrates public opinions on the issue of graffiti vary: some perceive it as the form of disorder that should be punished while others support graffiti as a subculture that brings esthetic value.

However, when analyzed deeper, the problem seems to lay in two dimensions: the low level of awareness among the public and authorities about graffiti meaning and forms and the lack of concrete regulations and programs that allow graffiti artists to express themselves legally. Thus, there is a need of research and campaign that will increase public and authority understanding of the importance of alternative effective deterrence programs. 

Works Cited

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Argumentative essay art

“I Don't Do It to Be Deviant It's Just Unfortunate That It's Illegal': Prolific Graffiti Offenders' 
    Perspectives on What It Would Take to Stop Them from Writing Graffiti Illegally on the Streets”.International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health, vol. 2, no.2, 2015, pp.48-52.
Pipkin, Whitney. “Making Graffiti a 'Gift' to the Community: Park Program Teaches Teens 
How to Legally Participate in Graffiti Art”. Parks & Recreation, vol.48, no.8, 2018, pp.23-26.
VanderveenmGabryand Gwen van Eijk. “Criminal but Beautiful: A Study on Graffiti and 
    the Role of Value Judgments and Context in Perceiving Disorder”. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, vol. 22, no.1, 2016, pp.107-125.