As a local mural has been vandalized, a street artist shares the inner-workings of the community
In artistic circles there are conducts of practice. This fact stays true even in crafts untethered to traditional artistic norms such as street art. Recently a local mural in the Whyte Avenue area has been vandalized.
The mural was made back in 2016 by artist and muralist B.I.P. (Believe In People), and since its completion it has resided peacefully in the neighborhood. Last week, it was discovered that the mural was painted over by another person’s graffiti, resulting in it being tarnished. To fully grasp the community reactions to this issue it’s important to understand the artistic culture attached to it.
A local street artist who chose to remain anonymous was able to share the ethics of street art and how the community reacts to situations like this one. To understand street art’s dynamic it is imperative to know the difference between a street artist, tagger and muralist.
“Mural work is a contractual concept,” says the anonymous artist. “Someone asks you to paint the thing and you paint the thing. In this process the owner of the property is always involved. If it’s going to take that kind of work and effort, you need a safe space where the owner isn’t going to come out and throw rocks at you.”
Edmonton hosts a bevy of murals across the city and this openness to this type of art made way for the Rust Magic Festival. This is where the professional aspect of street art hangs its hat. Commissioned work appears in all corners of the city, yet with the professional practice comes the opposite.
The organizers of the festival were not available for comment on the matter of the mural’s defacement, yet when it comes to the attitude of the non-formal and illegal street art in the city, some have first hand experience.
“Within the community some taggers view themselves as improving the neighborhood, regardless of general level of skill,” says the artist.
The issue of tagging comes with split perspectives. Some taggers put up art with no intention of making themselves known or taking credit for the work, others use handles or titles and tag property with the hope of achieving notoriety or claiming stake for their artistic territory.
When it comes to the issue of someone tagging over not only street art, but a commissioned mural, the consensus in the street art community is quite unanimous.
“This person looking for recognition seeks to find it by working over established artists. In the community I’d say the reaction is 90 percent negative,” the artist says.
An honour system is a binding factor in the street art community. It is expected that artists respect each other’s cobblestone canvases. However, not all share this view. With that in mind, there is an even greater understanding in the community of the timeline an artist’s work has once it has been completed.
“You have to throw it away, once it’s up on the street it’s not yours anymore,” says the artist.
This type of mentality is crucial when it comes to the approach of street art—be it stencil work, tags or murals. This could be one of the main reasons why the outcry coming from the street art community isn’t as loud as some might expect.
It would appear that these types of incidences come with the territory of the craft. With that in mind, the actions of the vandal who tagged the mural are still heavily looked down upon and the street art community aims to not have it be a reoccurring incident.
As our anonymous artist puts it, “Hopefully we can see this not as a trend, but strictly the actions of an asshole with a paint can.”