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Tax-Funded Graffiti Tags Critics

Friday, August 16, 2013

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Legitimate or not (and it is totally legitimate), a group called the Blight Society may occasionally find itself misunderstood.

In this case, the Cambridge, UK-based collective of "graffiti, urban and street artists" has run afoul of a local politician who does not approve of its tax-supported graffiti-painting workshops.

Cambridge Councillor George Owers says that graffiti is not the kind of art that taxpayers should be paying to teach—especially in the same communities where they are also paying to clean it up, the Cambridge News reports.

Cambridge Youth Foyer art
Blight Society

The Blight Society shows off a graffiti mural recently created at a three-day youth workshop in Cambridge, England. The mural decorates a residence for disadvantaged youth.

The graffiti-painting workshops were part of the City Council's free Urban Festival this week. The festival also featured street dance, skateboarding and other activities.

 “I acknowledge that Blight Society themselves are a legal outfit who do commissions and other legitimate work," Owers told the newspaper.

“However, it is surely the case that teaching young people how to paint graffiti could be construed as encouraging behavior which more often than not finds an antisocial and illegal expression."

He added: "I do not think that such a thing should be funded by the council taxpayer."

George Owers

Councillor George Owers says taxpayers should not have to pay to both teach and clean up graffiti.

Owers is in the minority on the Council—he was recently in hot water over his proposal for compulsory "city service" work—and the workshops also have defenders.

'All the Right Messages'

Paula Bishop, the council’s children and young people’s services manager, called "graffiti art" a "skill" and noted that the graffiti students paint on canvases, not on buildings.

“We have no experience of anyone coming to any sessions and then going off and getting into trouble with vandalism,” she said.

Cllr Tim Bick, the council leader, said there was a “world of difference” between legal and illegal graffiti.

“Treating it as an activity that can sometimes be OK enables all the right messages to be communicated about when it isn’t," he told the News.

"Otherwise it’s just underground and there is no chance to influence. That is presumably why this was an approach that the police suggested."


Tagged categories: Artists; Building facades; Graffiti; Murals

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