Graffiti is often simply art in an inappropriate place

What constitutes art? This is a question that has plagued mankind for centuries, and will continue to do so for many more. Yet it is an important one for the Ballarat community. There has been much talk online, in the paper, and around the community in relation to graffiti, particularly tagging. Many view it as vandalism, pure and simple. No questions asked. Graffiti, however, encompasses more than just tagging. Street art is another form of graffiti, one that requires talent and may comment on social or political issues. Any person can scribble their name on a wall; it takes an artist to be able to create a piece which makes you feel something other than anger at someone defacing private or public property.

Tagging decreases the city's beauty and harms its reputation. Comparatively, street art can enhance the city's look and add to its culture in a positive manner. Despite the difference between the two, both are still considered illegal.

In other communities around the world, the subject of legalising graffiti has been raised. However, if we legalise graffiti, it would legalise all that it encompasses: tagging, street art, and everything in between.

An alternative is to create a space where artists are allowed to express their creativity. Placing graffiti walls around the city which people can write, draw, or paint on will give artists and aspiring artists somewhere to practice and put their work without fear of repercussions. Even setting up a space where their work can be displayed, an exhibition centre of sorts, or where they can work with other artists to improve their skills may give theses graffiti artists another focus for their creativity and graffiti skills.

This solution may not entirely eradicate Ballarat's graffiti problem, no solution probably will. It can, however, decrease the amount of vandalism seen around the city. Educating graffiti artists on which buildings are heritage listed, private property, and other buildings which are complete no-nos to put their art on will make people more aware of where they can and cannot put their art.

We must monitor graffiti hotspots and enforce punishments for those caught vandalising public and private property. They need to realise that graffiti is illegal, and that their actions have consequences.

Some citizens of Ballarat also need to be educated about graffiti artists. There are people who say that graffitists need to stay in school or get a job. Yet it is not just youth who tag and do graffiti art. There are many adults who also do it, many which work as graphic designers during the day.  Type-casting graffitists will not help to solve the problem.

We need to understand graffiti artists and why they do what they do so that we can find more and better ways to decrease the amount of graffiti seen in the city. By working with graffiti artists, we can find or create places where they can put their work without angering residents and vandalising property.

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