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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Graffiti: public art worth funding?

click to enlarge STIMULATE THIS: 'Stan,' from Matt Haffner's Serial City project
  • STIMULATE THIS: 'Stan,' from Matt Haffner's Serial City project

Earlier last month, critic Jonathan Jones of The Guardian joined several other journalists and arts aficionados in calling for a stimulus for public art in his native UK. But instead of simply parroting what we've already heard, Jones makes an inspired, though unorthodox spin on the argument: Why not fund genres outside of the mainstream, including graffiti?

We are primed as a nation for public art. All over Britain, a huge variety of imagery has been erected in the boom years. There must be more funding for public art, not less - but obviously the money can't just go to famous individual artists. Instead, it has to be redirected to provide creative work for the young unemployed. And so, the state should pay the young to graffiti our streets.

(Let's not forget that the UK is the home of Banksy, arguably the world's most daring street artist, whose work now fetches record prices at international auctions.)

Atlantans feel strongly about their graffiti — both for and against. Mara Shalhoup's story in CL last summer, for instance, received a lot more comments than you'd expect. Local artists such as Matt Haffner (featured on the cover of The Atlantan's Arts and Power issue in December) work in traditional fine art circles as well as on the street. And Haffner is no stranger to grant funding: His work was chosen for ACP's very first public art project. So, could you imagine seeing new, large-scale graffiti works by Haffner or other Atlantans — financed by grant money?

Of course the funds wouldn't necessarily come from tax dollars. Last week's groundbreaking Artadia announcement shows that there are still foundations out there willing to invest in Atlanta art. Coupled with ACP's public art announcement, I wonder: Have foundations like Artadia considered street art as a grant-worthy alternative?

(Photo courtesy Wooster Collective)

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