Monday, June 29, 2009

Tagging is not ‘Art in the Park’

The death yesterday of famed NY graffiti artist Michael Martin, aka “Iz the Wiz”, provides us with a good segue for a little story on graffiti in Madison Park, of which the less said the better. The kind of graffiti sometimes found in Madison Park hardly rivals what you’d see any day in New York, LA or many European cities, but it is causing concern for both the Madison Park Community Council and Business Association.

I took a tour of neighborhood graffiti last week with MPCC president Ken Myrabo, who pointed out a lot of graffiti that I had missed on my many circuits through the park while walking my dogs. I guess it proves that some of us simply screen out graffiti when we see it. Tagging is certainly the lowest form of graffiti, being nothing more the than the unauthorized writing of the perpetrator’s moniker (in words or symbols) on buildings, streets and sidewalks, or objects. We seem to have a lot of that going in certain alleys, especially those in the merchant district near the end of E. Madison Street. Here's an example from the backside of the building housing Starbuck's:

It’s pretty unimpressive stuff. Clearly, the perpetrators are kids with no artistic talent and not much imagination either. In addition to tagging, there are occasional phrases (for example, on a residential garbage can in an alley: “for a rich neighborhood, this alley sure has a lot of graff…”). It’s all pretty pathetic stuff; and though a definite eyesore, it does not appear to me to be gang related. This is not the kind of graffiti that can be studied by sociologists for clues about 21st century urban youth’s feelings of alienation and angst. It seems more about bored kids with time on their hands and a can of spray paint.
Fortunately, most business owners in Madison Park act promptly to remove tagging when it occurs. The biggest problem appears to be on dumpsters (which are owned by the disposal companies, not the business owners) and the backs of buildings in alleyways. Myrabo points out that that the City has a Graffiti Nuisance Ordinance that requires property owners to remove graffiti when properly notified of its existence. He encourages those who discover graffiti to report it to the building owner as a first step.

Tagging is vandalism, and the city has a program to help prevent it and remove it. It is not recommended that property owners take the law into their own hands, as did one incensed New Zealand property owner a couple years ago who confronted two teenage taggers, eventually stabbing one of them to death (so reports Wikipedia).

Graffiti should be reported to the City’s Public Utilities Department (684-7587). You can access an on-line graffiti reporting form, as well as get tips on graffiti prevention and information on volunteering for graffiti cleanup, at Keep Seattle Clean.

By way of comparison of graffiti problems in the Park with those in other Seattle neighborhoods, take a look at what graffiti “artists” have done to destroy a mural on a bridge underpass in the Phinney Ridge/Greenwood area:

For a “before” picture of the mural, check out the blog. For more about American graffiti you can access a great NYC site:, which also provides links to graffiti sites in other cities.


  1. quality, I really like this, I saw something like this on It maybe the same person or a different graffiti artist? I dont know it all looks good to me lol. xxx

  2. People writing articles like this should educated themselves on graffiti before making bold statements such as the following:

    "It’s pretty unimpressive stuff. Clearly, the perpetrators are kids with no artistic talent and not much imagination either"

    What you need to understand is that graffiti writers who have amazing artistic talent and graffiti often utilize different forms of their moniker. You see these smaller "tags" out in open places because they are quick an easy to do. Do not disregard these people as having no talent because of one thing you have seen. I know some amazing artists who have terrible handwriting. Judging one's artistic talent (AND AGE??) by a simple spraypainted moniker is simply ignorant, and anyone reading this who knows anything about the art from has without a doubt already dismissed any of your opinions or words from here on out after the above quote.

    We know you are unhappy with the vandalism. But when you are dismissive, taking down, and making assumptions about things you really have no clue about, and use the word "clearly" when in fact you have inaccurate information, first and foremost you just sound like a dick. Secondly, you basically have thrown the validity of your article out the window.



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