Graffiti vandalism is not art, but the work of a coward

Worker removes graffiti from the wall of Vistas on the JamesI despise graffiti. It is not art, it is vandalism. It is not a youthful prank, it is a crime. It is not harmless, it is costly to remove. Richmond is under attack by graffiti vandals and I’m in favor of the severest of punishments.

Style Weekly’s Melissa Scott Sinclair wrote a piece about the city losing another graffiti battle atop the Martin Luther King Bridge as it crosses over Shockoe Valley. That is a prominent spot in the city for people driving through on Interstate 95 and the type of blight that Richmond does not need.

Richmond’s taggers don’t waste any time. They do, however, waste city money. One week and one day after a city crew painted over the enormous tags on the [MLK bridge] over Interstate 95 — an operation that cost around $1,500 — it was tagged again. The new tags, spelling SIGH in orange and gold letters about 6 feet high, are painted right above two of the bridge’s massive supports, one facing north and one facing south.

What really got me was the quote from Environmental Officer Chelsea Ferguson, who handles graffiti investigations in the Fourth Precinct:

“It’s certainly a heaven spot as far as graffiti vandals are concerned,” says Ferguson. A “heaven spot,” she explains, is what taggers call a place that’s both a coveted canvas and a dangerous venture, where “there’s a really good chance they could fall off and die.” Taggers have to clamber onto a precarious catwalk to reach the bridge’s supports.

Fun public art on the side of a building in Manchester at Hull and Cowardin StreetsGraffiti without permission is vandalism. It does not take courage or guts to “tag” properties, it takes a coward. I think it must be a mental problem that makes a graffiti vandal want everyone to see their “artwork.” Real artists put their given names on their work own it, not run under the cover of darkness and hide their graffiti tag.

I’ve never found illegal graffiti to be art or in any way attractive. And yes, that even counts the well-known and popular Grateful Dead rock at Belle Isle.

I’m all for commissioned unique public art. For example, there is a colorful mural on the side of a building at Hull and Cowardin streets in South Richmond. Manchester is growing into an art district, and works of this type can help mold a proud and unique streetscape.

Ed Trask's artwork at Kuba Kuba in the Fan DistrictI love looking for murals around Richmond by talented local artists, especially Ed Trask. He is nothing like a graffiti artist — he is a creative genius and his artwork makes Richmond a better place. He is a professional artist that is paid for his fantastic work. See his murals on the sides of at least 30 buildings, including Ellwood Thompson’s, Sidewalk Cafe, Kuba Kuba.

I suggest that graffiti vandals need get a good job and earn enough money to tag their own property.  That, or hone their talents legally to develop skills that would put them at Trask’s professional level. Society should not have to incur the costs associated with removing their criminal activity.

There were many pro and con comments posted to the Style Weekly article, but one from “anonymous” really stuck out:
It is simple incompetence on the part of the City of Richmond to paint over the vandalism and then neglect to set up sufficient surveillance to identify any suspects who commit future crimes at the same spot. When a crime is predictable, it is preventable. Mayor Jones, issue some orders to some of your highly paid subordinates. Earn your pay.

Graffiti vandals strike wherever they fancy, and no amount of surveillance (which isn’t free, by the way) would able to prevent it. The city shouldn’t be criticized, rather we should all get behind their efforts to keep this kind of blight under control. This is the ultimate community effort, and unlike the crimes we see where people are shot in a neighborhood and no one talks for fear of retribution, Richmonders should immediately contact authorities to catch a vandal in the act. Teamwork!

Want to report graffiti? Go to If you find graffiti on your personal property and think you may know who made it, please report it to the Richmond Police Department at 646-5100.

32 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Ellie on December 31, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    You are in favor of the severest of punishments? You mean death? Doesn’t get much more severe than that. But that’s a bit steep for painting on a wall.


  2. Posted by Benjamin on March 2, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    it is really good and diciptive


  3. art1
    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:

    I beg pardon, my flustered friend, but I do not see any implication of being harmless or harmful in the definition of art.

    “I suggest that graffiti vandals need get a good job and earn enough money to tag their own property. That, or hone their talents legally to develop skills that would put them at Trask’s professional level. ”
    I beg you pardon, I truly do, and I mean no insult, but this was very offensive to me. I am not a graffiti artist–this I must make very clear–but you group all with the evil. What I mean by this is that you take those which cannot hone their talents, nor get a well paying job, but are very honest people, and sometimes do very beautiful work, with those who cannot simply because they do not want to or are too lazy to achieve it.
    I presume you have never heard of the artist Bansky. I would like you to look at some of his work, and tell me if they are art. Art is not defined by the pertinence of its subject, nor by its aesthetic pleasing. Not all graffiti–such as TAGGING, which you naively seem to believe is the only type of graffiti there is–is beautiful, this is true. Very much of it is annoying and vulgar and, as you stated, very pricey. However, not all are like this.

    Furthermore I understand completely your anger, sir, but there are far more important issues in the world for you to be wasting your precious time and text with. I turn on mine TV in the morning to watch the news, and I hear about ISIS and Al quida and all these people. And here you are wasting your breath and writting talent on somehting which has been going on sense thousands of years ago Get your priorities straight, my man! I’m a fourteen year old and mine are straighter then yours.


    • At 14 years old, I think you need to experience the world a little more before you can claim to understand priorities. Maybe you volunteer to take some time to remove some graffiti off of a neighbor’s house, community park or local business. Ask them how they feel about graffiti.


    • Posted by Xander on September 5, 2017 at 9:53 am

      Dude, Get a life. Only little kids draw on the walls. Grow up. At 14 you are mature enough not to draw on walls. Use your creativity in a useful manner by drawing on a place you permitted to draw instead of vandalising public property.


      • Posted by Ellie on December 31, 2017 at 11:15 pm

        Xander, how about re-reading the post you are responding to. TheArtist said in his/her post that he/she is NOT a graffiti artist (or vandal if you prefer), so your quip telling them to ‘grow up’, and not to ‘draw on walls’, and not to vandalize property is a bit irrelevant. How can someone stop doing what they aren’t doing in the first place?

  4. Posted by Dosh on November 3, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    Calls graffiti artists cowards over the internet. Sorry but that also makes you the coward.


  5. Posted by Lex Lewis on September 30, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    Graffiti vandals are visual pollution producers. They play a part in the decline of American culture. Just look at their posts to see how ignorant and functionally illiterate they are.


  6. Posted by Some Day on May 29, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    The author of this post and all the negative comments are completely stupid. It takes a coward to graffiti? Yeah right! Your telling me a coward has the balls to climb bridges and tag them illegally risking going to jail or falling to there death? I don’t think so idiot. And trust me that dude SIGH is no coward, he is one of the most violent people you’ll ever meet, and I promise you you wouldn’t have the balls to call that dude a coward to his face. If you did then you would get dropped like a fly on the spot. Lets see who the real coward is between y’all two HAHAHA. Don’t let your disliking of something make you say things that make no sense.


    • Posted by Lex Lewis on September 30, 2014 at 9:34 pm

      Actually, you are the idiot. It takes a special kind of idiocy to desecrate public property with one’s talentless garbage. As for “Sigh’s” courage, his lowlife gangster prowess merely shows what a piece of trashy scum he truly is.


  7. Posted by Graffiti on February 5, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    Everyone, graffiti is just an expression of what this artist feels. It may be called “vandalism” but everyone expresses themselves in different. Two words… Artistic Expression.


    • Posted by Lex Lewis on September 30, 2014 at 9:37 pm

      Let them express themselves using their own property, ie canvas, not public property. What they are expressing is their defiance against anything lawful and society in general.


  8. Posted by ak on June 26, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Deport all niggers and wiggers back to Africa. Blow up martian luther bridge Problem solved.

    Graffiti is just typical nigger behaviour. Niggers ruin any architecture the white man builds.


  9. Posted by dffis on May 1, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Art provokes.


  10. Posted by INROCO on April 1, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    I’d like to see you toys do something half as good as Sigh. I don’t know who he is but he is close to my hero. Some people can’t paint a good picture so instead they tag. Mike you have plenty of people that agree with you here. Yeah we are rebellious artists, and we are very very talented. The whole not writing your name is part of the culture and it is like your second side because some gangs do use graffiti. However someone as good as Sigh is probably not in a gang. The “ego trip” it always feels great to have your name in the limelight. “faint hearted does not describe Sigh and, Occult did his hanging from the top of the bridge and off to the side. Untalented?? I have seen good artists that cant do good graffiti. Rebellious, duh we are rebellious. A rebel is someone who goes against the laws set by athuority. Well HMMM? isn’t that what taggers do?


    • Posted by Some Day on May 29, 2014 at 7:56 pm

      You are completely wrong, people don’t tag because they can’t paint a pretty picture, they could give 2 fucks about a pretty picture. They tag cause that’s what they enjoy doing..


    • Posted by Lex Lewis on September 30, 2014 at 9:40 pm

      They tag because their crappy “works” would never be displayed voluntarily. You are not artists; you’re talentless vandals.


  11. Posted by Jake on February 27, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    wow to say graffiti isn’t art is ignorant you may not like it but it is art and a lot is damn good art. I can see being made is a guy taged your house but being made about a building in town being taged is retarded.


    • Posted by Lou on April 16, 2014 at 5:24 pm

      Jake- I am from Richmond and I wonder if you are breaking a teachers heart. Did you mean MAD instead of ‘made’ and IF instead of ‘is’ – Being a taxpayer gives you the right to be mad if a public building/bridge gets tagged because it takes tax money to clean it up/remove the tag. The tag is wasted art at that point, because it is going to be deleted- Why don’t you find a property owner that wants the side of his building painted and you submit a design? You might get your materials paid for, your tag[art] stays up, and you could even have some money in your pocket!


  12. public property..

    yeah right
    those two words together make no sense

    im happy i live in a part of the world where the population isn’t as brainwashed

    for all i care people like you belong in the US


    • Mike, if you really are in Berlin, be glad that a great country like the U.S. allowed your “public property” to still be standing after what your country did TWICE. Relax and if you ever visit the U.S. of A., pay your respects and keep the tendancy to vandalize back home.


  13. Posted by mike on November 23, 2010 at 5:13 am

    here in berlin graff and street art are a widely accepted art form.
    you live in a short sighted and intolerant country.
    stand 15 metres over the ground on a 2 inch wide ledge holding yourself with one hand
    and tell me that youre a coward.
    you people have no clue.
    this is the life for some people.
    their way to vent out. their way to express themselves.
    if I am angry at my family or my loved ones, then i go out and paint
    i dont do yoga, i dont go out and rob people, i paint.
    im still waiting for the US to get as far as europe
    you are all locked into your system. i bet none of you (who are oddly all about “freedom”) have ever experienced what true freedom is.
    to tread where no man has gone before.
    to put my flag on my moon.

    you think trask didnt start out scribbling his name on the wall?
    without the tag theres no mural. end of story.

    you have to look at the flip side of the coin before you can judge what you consider a vandal.
    theres no logical compromise between what one can consider art and what is vandalism
    it’s something completely subjective

    it’s a movement which is based on controversy.
    you tell a kid not to write, and he’ll just want to do it more
    you guys gotta get your shit together and set the record straight.

    you all are chasing people writing on walls.
    there are real crimes out there

    take a look at what the rest of the world thinks of america and then tell us who are the real criminals

    greetings from germany


    • Posted by Jeff E. on November 23, 2010 at 7:39 am

      mike you rebel you. Waiting for us to get as far as Europe? This has nothing to do with being set in our ways or being behind the times and everything to do with respect for your community. I suggest finding a healthier way to deal with your problems than scrawling your name on a wall or rail car.

      As far as the line between art and vandalism is concerned… it’s art when an artist is given permission to put their work somewhere. It’s vandalism when it’s a kid spray painting their made-up nickname on private or public property without permission. Very simple.


      • Crushed it Jeff E. Permission is the key. If living in Europe means I have to deal with punks destroying my property, I’m glad that I’m here in the U.S.

    • Posted by Lex Lewis on September 30, 2014 at 9:47 pm

      Hey Mike, crawl back under your rock with your ignorance and racist attitudes, you fucking Nazi pig.


  14. Posted by graffiti on November 14, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    thats bullshit u guys have no idea what art is get your head out of your ass


  15. Posted by Jean on October 25, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    I agree. Grafitti is disheartening, a gang scrawl equivalent to a dog pissing on a building or an ego-trip for the faint-hearted and untalented who like to see themselves as rebellious artists.


    • Excellent summary Jean! Thank you


      • Posted by loveman on February 14, 2012 at 8:34 am

        douches…you have NO understanding of art…..keith haring, jean michael basquiat….these men were considered “criminals” in the 80’s their work was graffiti according to police, and art critics….until they started selling for millions, then it became art? – no, it WAS art as soon as they made it, it just took decades for idiots to realize it was not only art, but amazing art. just because you dont like it doesnt mean it isnt art. ASK DUCHAMP….fight the power..and stupidity…oh and for a more recent reference, please see bansky…knuckleheads

      • Posted by loveman on February 14, 2012 at 8:37 am


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