Philadelphia’s own tourist website boasts that the city ranks as a top arts destination yet the government is allowing local authorities to remove the work of local artists stating that the colorful backdrop for the cities bustling markets, strong music culture and busy pace of life is unsuitable. With the introduction of City Life Improvement Programs, has anybody stopped to ask the question: life improvement for who?
Between July 2011 and May 2012, precisely 112693 properties were cleared of somebody’s personal art work. Why is it that scrubbing colors off a building and painting it bright white is deemed acceptable yet decoration, color and the injection of life is not? Is the main corruption of our government really expenses, war or health care, or is it really the fact that they are forcing the whole country to be stuck in a rut that says self-expression is wrong?
The removal of local art work from local neighborhoods is dampening community spirit and insulting the skill of the youth. Does it not seem wrong that we are telling the youth not to decorate the city in a way that they choose? After all, they are the up and coming residents of the city. Soon enough they will run the city. Let’s face it – soon enough they’ll be the only ones among us that are still around. Maybe the biggest fault of our government is not listening to the youth and realizing that it is time they really did shape our future. And on a side note, maybe expenses and health care would be improved if we stopped paying
people to create projects to make the city more miserable.
It would be possible to contradict this point of view by throwing in the argument that Philadelphia has been given a Mural Art Program. Well, thank you for that, it is surely appreciated that artistic talent is being ‘redirected’ into something the White House deem to be more productive. But let’s break this down; how does having someone watch over us whilst we paint change what we are doing at all? The mission is to ‘unite artists and communities’ to create art that ‘transforms public spaces and individual lives’. Isn’t that what is happening already? Labelling groups of youths that create graffiti as gangs has given the government the power to control most of its people like puppets but it’s about time that this stereotype went out of the window. Local sites of graffiti are no different to assigned murals. Decoration by untrained artists is the same whether it is being watched over by a paid, professional adult or not - graffiti artists already work together to create master pieces that brighten up public spaces and already ‘transform individual lives’. And on top of this they’re decorating the city for free – what is not to love?
Darryl McCray (Cornbread) started graffiti in Philadelphia and the city soon became known as the birthplace of graffiti. Why is it so taboo to be proud of that? Springfield is known as the birthplace of basketball and nobody has an issue with it. Graffiti is part of Philadelphia’s culture and that should be embraced. When Philadelphia starts loving its title and taking pride in its artwork then others will follow. And when everyone knows Philadelphia for, and prides Philadelphia in, graffiti then it is no longer a problem. And surely the fact that you can charge up to $45 for an hour tour of graffiti proves that it is loved and cherished by many.
Modification of our city could easily be seen as a great thing if the government weren’t so narrow minded and traditional. It is time that they encouraged local authorities to step into the twenty first century and celebrate the talent of the youths that are shaping the future. Modification of the traditional to give it a modern twist is a growing phenomenon, as can be witnessed when specialist modified car insurance has given rise to the acceptance of the graffiti of vehicles, and it’s about time that the modification of our cities is seen the same.
The government should start dealing with issues at a local level and embrace our youth as the future of our country. Graffiti is one of the quirks that makes Philadelphia and, in turn, our country great. It is time to accept that.
Liz Western is a freelance writer who works predominantly in the travel sector but blogs about any kind of topic worth writing about. She was lucky enough to spend most of her twenties traveling through Asia where she saw many cultures embrace much more beauty than can be found in a plain white painted wall.