Is Graffiti Art or Vandalism?

This post was written by admin on 25 March 2009
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Is Graffiti Art or Vandalism?

By Michele, Freddie, Alan and Quinlan
St.Bernard’s Catholic Grammar School, Slough

graffiti1Graffiti is a controversial topic which has long been debated as a nuisance to society inflicted upon the public or more recently as a legitimate form of creative expression. But is it art or vandalism?


There are many graffiti artists who put time and effort into their work, such as Banksy, Marc Echo, Seen and Cope. Aik Saath is an organisation in Slough that has paid graffiti artists to paint a mural in the style of graffiti that the council has authorised on a public walkway. Graffiti can be very artistic, colourful and can brighten up an area. It can display the artist’s feelings or opinions about the world around them; in this case the mural above captures the ethos of the conflict resolution charity Aik Saath who aim to foster positive relationships across different sections of the local community.


Vandalism such as graffiti is usually done by the younger generation as they are influenced by the more experienced artists as mentioned, therefore they usually get in trouble by writing swear words which little kids can see and doing graffiti on walls, where they are not allowed to or have permission to do it. The stereotype image of a graffiti artist is no good nicks that do it just to annoy and disrupt the community.

“Graffiti is great! It allows young people to express their feelings without getting into trouble. If places are set aside for graffiti, people who want see it can go to see it.”
Catherine, 13, London
“I think graffiti is ugly and destroys a community’s reputation。”
Quinlan, 13, Englefield Green

History of Graffiti

People first recognized graffiti as an art form during the 1970’s and 80’s when graffiti artists began colouring the NYC subway. The first graffiti artist, a young boy from America, with the alias TAKI 183, graffitied on subway trains, stations, sign posts and buildings. The New York Times published an article about the mysterious TAKI 183 tag; making him known to the rest of the public.

The new craze grew and the boy then had a whole gang of graffiti artists; the groups were known as ‘crews’. They would try to hit (spray paint) as many trains as possible. When they got caught they found out that the quality of graffiti was more important than the quantity in exposure in public areas.

In order to make their graffiti unique they created their own style of art like block and bubble writing. They used colours to brighten up their work.
The United Graffiti Artists was created in the early 70’s and some wanted their graffiti art to be displayed in professional art galleries. Art dealers in Europe took an interest at the New York Cities (NYCS) subway art during the 1980’s and many of the graffiti artists were asked to travel with them around Europe.

The NYC MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) wanted the subways to be clean of graffiti. However, graffiti started to extend its perimeters out of New York due to the MTA. Today, graffiti can be found all around the world being done by many age groups.

We conducted a survey asking 32 people in our class about the issue of graffiti focusing on two questions: do you think graffiti is art or vandalism and whether graffiti should be legalised or not.

graffiti3 Results showed that the majority of 13 year olds believed that graffiti is a form of art if the design is creative and interesting. Those who thought it was vandalism cited it as a blight on public areas making them ugly to look at.
In regards to legalising graffiti there was greater uncertainty, with one concern being how it would be decided what constitutes graffiti and what exactly is defined as artistic. Those pupils who believed it should be legal thought it would in fact reduce offensive graffiti in a wider public area if it was contained in a specific place provided by the local council. screenshot