On Sunday 6th April, at Famous When Dead Gallery there was a panel talk about graffiti in the CBD. JD Mittman introduced the diverse panel and the discussion in the context the Union Lane Street Art project part of the City of Melbourne mentorship program.
The first panelist to speak was Alison Young, a criminologist at Melbourne University researching graffiti. Young pointed out that there was diversity in groups doing graffiti, that you cannot have ‘nice’ street art without the ‘ugly’ tagging, and how harsh laws can make the problem worse. She was especially critical of Victoria’s “increadibly harsh” anti-graffiti laws and its erosions of the legal standards. She also noted the entrepreneural aspects of street art in San Francisco.
Ghostpatrol spoke next about the perspective of a street artist who has now become a professional artist with a studio. From his adolescent boredom motivating stickers and stencil runs to his discovery of the Stencil Revolution and Melbourne’s street art scene. Ghostpatrol talked about the “reclaiming of space” and the group spirit that motivates much of street art. He is doing his art “not for money or fame” but to be part of a community.
Fiona McLeod from the Hardware Precinct Residents Association who gave the views of CBD residents. McLeod is the voice of the moderate anti-graffiti faction, certainly not opposed to all graffiti or street art and aware of the history of graffiti. Tagging, consent and cost of graffiti removal were her main concerns. McLeod raised the issue of increased inner city violence and drunkenness.
Cr David Wilson, from the City of Melbourne spoke about the cities broad arts policy and specifically the graffiti management plan. This management plan includes eradication, law enforcement, education of the planning process for street art and engagement with the street artists. The council is clearly capable of issuing street art permit, having issued 21 so far, but its education campaign is nascent. And subsequent speakers questioned the success of its engagement mentorship program. The problem with the mentorship program is that although it produces great street art projects like Union Lane that please the city, residents and tourists, it fails to address the problem or to engage with the taggers.
Andy MacDonald, director of Citylights Projects and Hoiser Lane resident gave the view of an inner city resident that lives and works with street art. He contrasted the organic community management of graffiti with the council’s bureaucratic permits. MacDonald maintains that the permits have lead to hundreds of teenagers tagging the locations along with increased inner city violence. And that this is discouraging the serious artists from working in the locations because their work will be quickly wreaked. He contrasted this with the organic local management of the graffiti by residents and artists. MacDonald also spoke about the exploitation of street artists work by advertising using the Hoiser Lane location.
This was followed by questions and comments from the large audience that was packed into the gallery, including the mother of a teenage tagger, youth workers and street artists. This discussion mostly focused on the problems with increased alienation of teenage boys due to consumer based recreation, the city’s increasing population and the poor transportation infrastructure. And alternatives to the current City of Melbourne bureaucratic permit system.
I hope that JD Mittman organizes more forums about street art. There is plenty of interest and plenty more to aspects of street art to discuss.