Business owners agree that graffiti art isn’t a crime when it’s done legitimately
An indiscernible mass of jagged lines, sharp angles and unfamiliar symbols mark a dumpster in an alleyway. This is one of many images that could be described as graffiti.
Graffiti tends to bring with it bad connotations: gangs marking their territories, juvenile delinquency, urban decay. And for business owners, it can be a drain on resources, costing time and money to remove, adding to its bad rap.
However there are some, like Derrick Mitchell, who say there’s another side: the artistic one.
Derrick Mitchell, Manager of the House Coffee Sanctuary in Kensington, stands in front of the sanctioned graffiti mural that adorns the back wall.
Photo: Jordan Simpson/Calgary Journal
“I think [graffiti art], within the parameters of a legitimate of place, in a legitimate time, it’s amazing,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell has been the manager at the House Coffee Sanctuary for eight years and has noticed the impact it’s had on the coffee shop, well as the neighborhood of Kensington.
“It just creates a great culture, it helps foster more people to be interested in art and want to do art,” he explained, speaking about the mural that adorns the back wall of the building.
The mural was done by distinguished graffiti artist David Brunning. Brunning, or TheKidBelo as he also goes by, is well known in the graffiti art community of Calgary.
“There’s a lot of positive, there’s a lot of negative. It depends on the community, it depends on the art,” Brunning said. “So if you’ve got really beautiful murals, you got really positive messages going around, going across, of course it’s going to be positive.”
Brunning has had clients ranging from the City of Calgary all the way down to small businesses like the House Coffee Sanctuary. Although much of his work has been praised, he’s quite familiar with the opposition graffiti art faces in communities.
“I think the opposition comes from people that don’t understand what street art is, what graffiti art is,” he said.
Another form of graffiti exists known as “tagging”. And here is where the discrepancy may lie. “It would be like a word or a name, takes all of 10 seconds [to paint]. Sometimes it’s big, sometimes it’s little,” Mitchell explained. “There’s not a lot for forethought that goes into it, it doesn’t have that artistic side to it.”
Many businesses, including the House don’t appreciate or condone it.
“I’m a big fan of legitimate art. Taggers, I could do with out,” Mitchell added.
Annie MacInnis, executive director of the Kensington Village Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ) knows all too well the costs that tagging incurs upon business owners.
“It’s not a victimless crime,” she explained. “Kensington is full of a lot of small business owners. A lot of them are independents, and this [tagging] costs time and money both to the business and to the BRZ.”
Over the past week, taggers have hit Kensington, leaving an upwards of 30 tags on various buildings, MacInnis told the Journal. To remove the markings can cost an upwards of $400 and take many hours to scrub off.
In spite of this, MacInnis does support valid, legal avenues for artists to express themselves.
“If someone wants to do art, then they need to buy their own materials or they need to have permission to do art somewhere, not impose on other peoples’ money and time in order to indulge themselves.”
Derrick Mitchell shares the same sentiment.
“Every single business here [sic], I don’t think anybody is a fan of the taggers,” he stated.
He also offered some insight in deterring tagging.
“Sanctioned street art is awesome. It would be cool if more businesses did murals and stuff like that, especially ones that get tagged all the time, ‘cause in my experiences, [that] leads to less tagging.”