This I Believe

Kirby - Kansas City, Missouri
Entered on April 19, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: creativity
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Lost Art

Steady… Aim… Fire… Flash!

Armed with a 35 mm camera, I was determined. Eagerly exploring back alleys, bridges, barren buildings and train yards, roll after roll of film flowed through the camera, filling my pockets. I wanted to see everything; learn everything. Each piece of art provided new insight, a better understanding. The vivid expressions of paint were fascinating, inspiring, refreshing against the cold, hard city canvas. It was love at first sight: I believe in graffiti.

My passion for graffiti formally developed upon my first visit to KC, Missouri. While driving in and out of traffic infested streets, grey skies loomed over an impersonal herd of business people — faces with no names. Suits scurried by a homeless man sprawled on the pavement.

Suddenly, my eyes danced. The sight of vibrant calligraphy and color was a sign of hope. The further we drove, the more we saw; the more I wanted to learn about the art that substitutes spray paint as a pen and the city as paper.

Intensely hunting graffiti anywhere it could be found, I captured the art on film. The moon and sun shined brightly on the art hidden under bridges, or proudly displayed on rooftops; on the sides of remote trains and the backs of buses. Graffiti was everywhere, representing a diverse array of demographics, offering anything from political advice to a simple smile. Amid the cold city walls and distant strangers, graffiti made me feel like I belonged; like the streets were alive and breathing.

Nearing the end of my hunt, I discovered a secluded spot at the heart of the city, perfect for graffiti. Anxiously anticipating a mural of bold lines, shapes and letters that lay behind the bland buildings, I was stopped. An eight foot chain-link fence, dressed in barbed wire stood between me and the perfect canvas. A sign read: “Graffiti artists or ‘taggers’ will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

Upon my return to KC nearly a year later, I impatiently thirsted to see the art that had so intensely sparked my imagination, which I had fallen in love with. One by one, white blotch after white blotch of paint replaced the masterpieces.

Now all that is left of the original works of public art are the 35mm snapshots growing dust in the back of my closet. The loss of graffiti is a loss to society; part of the city’s culture is dead, buried under white blotches of paint. Critics hail artists such as Rembrandt and Michelangelo for their most successful works which appear on the sides of churches and buildings. Meanwhile, cunning artists in our own day and age are prosecuted and defiled as untalented vandals.

I believe that art exists everywhere: in schools, concert venues, galleries, and museums – on buses, trains, buildings, and bridges.

I believe in graffiti.