EDITORIAL: Treat graffiti as public art

News editorial on tackling tagging and graffiti by providing more focused opportunities for artists

On the one hand it’s great seeing Saanich residents take charge and eradicate graffiti around their homes. On the other, it’s a shame that they have to spend their valuable time cleaning up their neighbourhood because vandals continue to deface public and private property.

Right now, when it comes to tagging, the scale is tipped in favour of vandals.

The few dollars they spend on a can of spray paint can result in hundreds of dollars in cleanup costs to home- and business owners. Saanich’s unsightly premises bylaw requires the cleanup of unauthorized artwork – be it an illegible scribble or a bright, beautiful mural – at the expense of the property owner.

Municipal governments, police departments and the private companies that own the bus shelters, mailboxes and telephone poles that are regularly tagged need to take better steps to tip the scale back in favour of property owners.

We think the best solution is to accept graffiti as part of the community.

The first step would be installing pro-graffiti areas throughout the municipality. Funnel artists to specific spots and walls where they can practise their art – good or bad, legible or unreadable. Negative and derogatory symbols and words can be removed, as needed, but provide taggers with a fresh canvas where they can show off their skills.

The second step is commission professional graffiti artists to produce murals as public art. Artists are typically respectful of one another, and are less likely to deface a mural.

Municipalities, homeowners and businesses in Greater Victoria spend more than $1 million every year on graffiti removal – think of how many bright, beautiful pieces of quality street art that could produce.

Graffiti – namely the stuff that doesn’t appear to have much artistic merit – causes frustration, headaches and lighter wallets for residents and property owners. Let’s find ways to better use that money to promote public artwork, beautify our neighbourhoods and hopefully eradicate the problem all at once.