Local tagger speaks

Holly Rillovick
Staff Writer

It was twilight on Lincoln Street in Prescott, Arizona. A young man with dreaded hair who goes by the tag name of LMNOP sat in a folding chair on his front porch. He smoked a cigarette as he watched rickety trucks and bicyclists pass by. The smoke dissipated in the cool evening air as he exhaled.

“I’ve always been around [tagging and graffiti art] and I’ve always been attracted to it,” said LMNOP, a college student from Phoenix, as he lowers his cigarette. “It’s an interesting art form.”

Few people consider graffiti a form of art, however. It is typically seen as an act of vandalism, which is a crime. Prescottonians may notice there is little graffiti in Prescott.

Lieutenant Rich Gill of the Prescott Police said The Community Restitution Program, also known as community service, covered over 1,800 tags last year, which includes paint; slap tags, or stickers; and marker.

Beginning July 1, 2012, the City of Prescott will stop funding the removal of graffiti.

“It’s going to be interesting to see what happens,” Gill said. “When it’s going to be out there and more visible, it’s probably going to get worse.” Responsibility for covering graffiti will fall on whoever owns the property. “Failure to remove the graffiti could result in Code Enforcement action being taken against these property owners.”

According to a police report of all crimes in Prescott in January 2012, there were 80 reported cases of vandalism. Four adults and one minor were charged.

“[Graffiti] has a varying culture around it,” LMNOP said as he put out his cigarette in an ashtray beside him in the dark. He says there are “artsy” graffiti artists who paint or draw colorful images. “Generally, you can really feel those kinds of pieces. I even saw a piece that made me cry once. Deep blues and grays … it really resonated.”

“There’s also tag banging,” he said, which “gives graffiti a bad name.” It is a known method for gangs to mark territory or to convey a message.

“When most people see graffiti, it seems like all they see is gangs, drugs, violence,” LMNOP said. “It’s a stereotype. I wish people could learn not to see it as an eyesore … and start seeing it as beautiful, and embracing it.” The tagger said people are attached to what is considered normal, and “an explosion of colors on every wall is the furthest thing from that. There is so much that we’re taught to repress that gets thrown out when you paint, and I think people don’t want to see it thrown out.”

“[Graffiti] doesn’t hurt you or anybody else. It’s a victimless crime,” LMNOP said with a laugh.

LMNOP recalled a piece he saw recently. “You had to go through these tunnels to get to it. I had to crouch — they were about three feet tall. There was water at the bottom. Muddy. It was really long. And when I came out at the end, there was this huge piece — I had to back up to see it.” Yellow to blue to green in a gradient style pattern, the piece read ‘MESK,’ presumably the artist’s tag name or pseudonym, with white highlights. “It was really well composed. You could tell the artist controlled the can well. There were no drips or anything.”

He said the piece made him feel excited, happy, and relieved. “Wow! This stale, dark tunnel opened up to this!” The young man’s face glowed with the memory.

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