The Black Hills Are Not For Sale – Graffiti by Shepard Fairey

So a young man, just turned 18 was tasered by Miami police and died. He was a graffiti artist and according to his family, “wanted to change the world through art.”

I have seen and read all sides on this debate about graffiti in cities across North America.
There is a very real difficulty faced by city administrations.

Most of the graffiti you’ll see is garbage. It’s just a tag – a stylized name or moniker of the person scrawling it. Or it’s gang logos, simple scratches or plain old dirty pictures.

But then you get the other stuff. The statement of truth about a community or the world rendered in beautiful colours and design.

You get the ecological or socio-political images of great artistic commentators like Banksy or Shepard Fairey.

You get the haunting large scale photo installations of  JR.

And all points in between.

Some towns have provided a place for graffiti – certain walls free for the street artist to go wild. Some communities come to treasure the art (some people, too, going so far as to steal iconic images from the walls themselves to sell to the highest bidder). These pieces are usually the illicit ones, the works of art created at great risk to the artist on unauthorized walls or shuttered buildings.

Creation is a human drive. And the more desperate a life, the more deep the need to create something different.

The darker the hour, the more light the human soul yearns to shine.

And sometimes it shines beyond laws, rules and imposed boundaries. Sometimes it illuminates, tells a truth, or just captures us with wonder.

We seem to live in a world where there are rules about creation: where you can sing, where you can dance, where you can paint or perform.

But creativity is often the rejection of rules, it’s the response of a population to being crushed under imposed boundaries and ideas. It’s the explosion of magma that found a way through the impervious crust.

Trying to stop it is only setting the stage for an even bigger eruption.

We all know the manmade world we’ve inherited isn’t working, and the artists, our common and collective intuition, are shouting it from the rooftops and the walls.

Will we silence those who want to help us? Will we taser a young man for following the dictates of his conscience?
We know things must change. Will we listen?


I’ve shown a few examples of graffiti artists in this article, but there are so many more also deserving recognition. If you know of any, please share.
Who is your favorite graffiti artist or artwork?