Is Graffiti Art?
For this DBQ, we want to offer you the ability to think about how we label art. In order to fully
answer the question, you need to have the following definitions:
Definition of art: the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination,
typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated
primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
Definition of graffiti: writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or
other surface in a public place.
Definition of vandalism: an act that involves deliberate destruction of or damage to public or
Keeping the above definitions in mind:
Is graffiti vandalism, or is graffiti art?
Before you begin writing, please remember to:
create a “working thesis” → remember, your thesis is a work in progress and should
be subject to change as you read through the documents
read through all the documents! Ask yourself:
what details support my thesis?
what details don’t support my thesis (these can make for great counterclaims)
Organize (OUTLINE) your work before writing. Think about:
details that support your points
details that work against your points and how you can acknowledge the
Argumentative Writing Rubric
Graffiti vandals lower property values by up to 15 percent
January 18, 2012 by admin
by Elisa Cohen
The kid with the marker defacing every surface he or she sees while walking down the alley,
not only costs the city and property owners the price of paint and labor to cover it up or
remove it, this vandalism costs property owners up to 15 percent of the value of their property,
writes Julius Zsako in his recently published book Defacing America, the Rise of Graffiti
That’s $45,000 for all of you $300,000 property owners. A lot of financial damage from a $2
marker and a kid with too much time and not enough civic responsibility. If caught in Denver,
the vandal might face “The minimum penalty/fine for graffiti vandalism has been doubled to a
maximum of $999 plus 80 hours of community service and/or jail time,” writes Councilman
Paul Lopez on his website.
While penalties need to be there, Zsako is pinning his hopes on education and social media.
Most kids know that recycling helps the planet. They have programs in school that teach this.
Zsako believes the high cost – $12 billion nationally – can be brought down when students
understand and find the consequences offensive themselves. Once graffiti is known by
children to reduce their opportunities such as music and sports programming because the
schools spend so much on graffiti removal, then the peer pressure will help reduce graffiti.
In the mean time, cities must continue to quickly eradicate traces of graffiti. Vandals want to
be seen by many. If their tags are removed quickly, this lessens the ego boost they get from
defacing high visibility targets.
This is where Zsako places hope in social media. Instead of getting thousands of eyes to see
a tag on a bridge, Zsako hopes the kids will find the same thrill from getting thousands of
followers on their social media devices and put the spray cans down.
There is hoping and then there is designing for prevention. Billboards, dumpsters, and other
building designs can prevent vandalism. Zsako wrote this book to give property owners and
policy makers the information they need to reduce this costly crime.
Defacing America: The Rise of Graffiti Vandalism is available at www.amazon.com. Learn
more at www.DefacingAmerica.com.
Outside Elixir bar in the Mission district of San Francisco, graffiti taggers have left their mark
— not on the wall, but on the living. Every tree on that 16th Street block has been
spraypainted in shades of purple, red, white and black.
“I can’t imagine why anyone would think that’s O.K.,” said Shea Shawnson, the bar manager.
“What do you do to clean up a tree without messing it up?
That’s the point.
In a city where graffiti abatement is swift — property owners are fined if graffiti is not
immediately removed, and the city spends $20 million on the problem — taggers have
discovered a way to ensure that their mark has staying power. Graffiti, taggers believe, is not
easily covered or removed from trees without harming them.
The vandalism has angered residents, and possibly threatened the health of some trees,
which are remarkably rare in San Francisco because very few tree species are indigenous.
The tagging also appears to violate one of the tenets of the graffiti subculture: it is supposed
to be a reaction to urban life, not an attack on nature.
“It’s an insult to the tree,” said Jeremy Novy, a local street artist. “It has nothing to do with
Mr. Novy is well known for his stencil art of koi fish that have become ubiquitous on city
sidewalks. He has painted at least 3,000 in the past few years, often at the request of property
owners. Mr. Novy is also an instructor at First Amendment Gallery in SoMa, where graffiti art
“Graffiti artists look for areas where it’s hard to reach or remove,” Mr. Novy said. As for the
trees, “That’s them finding a different surface that’s difficult to cover over or remove,” he said.
The police reviewed several images of the graffiti for The Bay Citizen and said it was not
gangrelated or drug turf insignia.
“To me they appear to be individual tags or monikers,” said Officer Martin Ferreira, who
investigates graffiti crimes.
The extent of tree defacement is unknown. The city has applied to the state for money to
inventory the city’s trees, but it is unclear when or if that project will happen.
Trees in other neighborhoods have also been hit with graffiti, including the Ocean View area
in the south of the city.
It is also not the first time taggers have targeted trees. “Three or four years ago, there was a
rash of it in the Mission,” said Dan Flanagan, executive director of Friends of the Urban
Forest, a nonprofit group that plants and cares for trees in the city. “Then it went away.”
Mr. Flanagan was dismayed to hear that the problem was back.
Trees play a crucial role in the city’s ecosystem, reducing air pollution and absorbing
rainwater to prevent dirty street runoff from entering the bay. But it takes decades for trees to
become mature enough to have this impact, and the city’s unusually foggy climate and other