February 21, 2007
The suburb of Chicago where I live, Evanston, has a very unique and very specific culture of its own, which I've only been able to realize and appreciate since I came to school at U of M. It's in the way we dress, the language we use (words like "durch" [to leave with haste] have been invented and completely enveloped into conversation solely by Evanstonians) but mostly its an attitude. A good example of Evanston's secular culture can be seen in graffitti. Not that Evanston is the only town with graffitti in it (it's quite the opposite) but the amount is spectacular. There is graffitti EVERYWHERE. Then it will be gone, erased by public officers, only to have something else in its place the next day. What's more unusual is the amount of people who do graffitti- I have been known to be a culprit myself. It's not just for the hardcore graf writers, it's everyone.
Graffitti is not widely recognized as a form of art, which it is, but I have been noticing a trend of appreciation for the illegal art form growing recently by people who, honestly, shouldn't be appreciating graffitti. I believe that if graffitti is taught as a type of art in schools it will lose all of its meaning. Graffitti is meant to be illegal, or else no one would do it. It is insulting to the graf writer to have their work displayed and admired legally because it will make them something of a "tool". Graffitti is all about pride, from when it started in black and Hispanic neighborhoods of New York City in the 1960s until now, in Evanston. The graffitti I see in Evanston is far superior than what I see around Ann Arbor, for example, even though people like to compare the two cities as being similar. The disparity in the quality of graffitti says something about the differences in culture between Evanston and Ann Arbor, though I can't really say what because I haven't lived in Ann Arbor as a non-student. Graffitti artists take immense pride in the quality of their work, compete with each other, and idolize certain artists (such as "Kizer" who supposedly died during a graf mission while being chased by police over the el tracks). Kizer is a martyr for the cause of keeping this unusual art form from the evil claws of people who want to exploit it- even other artists. Even though it is probably one of the more true art forms still around, it is not meant to be thought of as such. It is meant to be a way of sticking it to the man, if I may use a cliche. It is meant to be a way of showing that even though we live in a suburban area where we are walked through the motions of life with all the comforts, we are still capable of being individuals and acting out, that we will not be sheep! It is a tribute to the hip hop forfathers that came before us, to all the people in the struggle, and to being true to the place you are from- and not selling out for any amount of fame. Mayor Daly of Chicago has the right idea- zero tolerance for graffitti, in fact, you cannot purchase spray paint anywhere within the boundaries of the city and if you are caught the penalty will be most severe. He doesn't know it, but he is doing more than anyone else possibly could to keep the spirit of youth in the city alive.
I have included images of true Evanston graffitti, and its aftermath.
Posted by sarahcl at February 21, 2007 10:23 PM