Embrace on-campus street art

Embrace on-campus street art

by Kelly Gardner

In the land of the free and home of the brave, we take pride in our ability to express ourselves. We see self-expression in all different forms, whether it’s the clothes we wear, the music we listen to, or the ideas we preach. One form of self-expression hit the streets in the ‘70s and started showing up in galleries just 10 years later–I’m talking about graffiti.

Graffiti started off on a small scale with artists tagging subway cars and gangs leaving their mark on city walls. As cities became increasingly marked with graffiti, police began enforcing laws. In California, you can now be fined up to $50,000 and imprisoned for up to one year, depending on the damage caused. But graffiti has grown to become much more than the act of vandalizing property, it has grown into an entire movement.

[quote] While graffiti is still considered a crime by legal standards, it’s also considered a form of art.[/quote] Throughout the years, graffiti has evolved and artists have emerged as icons of the art community. Banksy is a well-known street artist from London who has gained national recognition throughout the years for his graffiti. His work has gone from being plastered on the streets to being showcased in huge custom galleries.

Another extremely successful artist who got his start on the streets with graffiti is Shepard Fairey. While you may not recognize his name at first, there’s a good chance you’ll recognize his brand Obey Giant. Both these artists rose to fame through graffiti and the societal messages they conveyed through their work. Graffiti is not just about tagging names anymore, it’s used to preach ideas and messages. Artists use it as a medium to translate what they stand for.

The art of graffiti is complicated by both moral and legal dilemmas. While some artists are rewarded with fame and success, they risk a lot in order to get there. Graffiti is one of the most unique forms of self-expression and we need to be creating opportunities for these artists to channel just that. We should be eliminating the element of risk and allowing them to utilize their skills.

[quote] The brand new Aztec Student Union is the perfect canvas to allow our students and local artists the chance to showcase their work.[/quote] With plenty of blank walls throughout the building it offers the ideal win-win situation. Those blank walls need to be filled with something, and I’m sure there are plenty of artists in the community who would jump at the opportunity to have their work displayed in such a prime location. San Diego State University has the perfect opportunity to provide artists the chance to express themselves, while also having a say in the matter.

If SDSU organizes a way for artists to come in and beautify our school, it may seem like it’s taking away from the roots of graffiti, but that’s not the objective. Our school could assign artists a particular space to create their work, while collaborating with those artists about what they wish to design. This is a give-take situation where our school would be able to grant permission for artists to be expressive, while still having an input in what’s being displayed on the walls. I’m not suggesting the university tell the artists what they have to create, but rather work with the artists to find an agreed-upon direction.

The Bushwick Collective in Brooklyn, N.Y. is an outdoor gallery which hosts murals done by accomplished street artists from all over the world. Joseph Ficalora, a Brooklyn resident, worked with local business both owners to acquire building space for the artists and organized the gallery. The Bushwick Collective is a perfect example of an organized collaboration that benefits the artists and the local neighborhood. The artists are able to express themselves through their work, while beautifying the community for everyone. It is a fun and tasteful collection that adds a unique touch to the Brooklyn area.

SDSU already has a beautiful campus, so what better way to continue adding to our campus’ aesthetic than by getting the Aztec community involved. You can even see tasteful murals created on business walls in Ocean Beach. While those murals might have been planned or paid for, they still add a creative touch to the area. We should be encouraging these artists to express themselves and share their artistic ability. Giving them the place and opportunity to do so would be a great way to start.