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October 07, 2010 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-10-07

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4B - Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4B - Thursday, October], 2010 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

We asked the people of Ann Arbor
what they think about graffiti.
Here's what they had to say.
As told to Carly Steinberger 11 Daily Arts Writer
"I lovethegum wall. OLIVIA LAMSON
Ilove the colors and
the different shapes. -HIGH SCHOOL FRESHMAN
Graffiti is kind of
rebellious. Everyone is
like, "Conform, conform,
conform?"Afncd people
who do graffiti are like,
"I'm going to go my own 7
way and live my life how
I want to live it" That
involves bringing art
everyhere instead of
justbeingingallery. Ev-
eryone is on the streets,
everyone can see graffiti."
"I like the art -LSA SOPHOMORE

Graffiti Alley features everything from the gum wall toa Michael Jackson impersonator.
Taki g art to the streets


In Ann Arbor,
graffiti takes on a
positive, activist role
Daily Arts Writer
When the four pillars of hip hop
were established in the 1970s in
the Bronx, graffiti was all about
glory. Youth in rebellion against
society and the law would run
wild in the night streets, spraying
their name up wherever people
were likely to see it. In Ann Arbor,
the art takes on a decidedly differ-
ent slant. While a few locals still
take pride in tagging, much of Ann
Arbor's graffiti is about sending a
message and improving the neigh-
Local graffiti artist Paolo
Carone, an LSA senior, mostly
uses stencils to create political
messages and purposefully plac-
es them where they will be most
"When I do stencils, it's like
a statement because it's some-
thing you can read and it's short
... something you can get the gist
of," Carone said. "It's like, 'Yes I
think this is unfair and I hope by
reading this you at least consider
that it's unfair too, or you consider
that it's terrible that this is being
One of his favorite lines to
use is "I will show you fear in a
handful of dust," taken from T.S.
Eliot's "The Waste Land." Carone
has this five-foot tall stencil on a
number of abandoned buildings in
Detroit, including a record store
he liked that was being torn down,
he said.
The dustin the poem represents
a lifeless substance with no fur-
ther meaning, Carone explained,
like the rubble of the demolished
record store.
"It's specifically that there
weren't efforts to save these build-
ings or clean them up or anything,
they were just efforts to get rid of
it and turn it into a parking lot or
just another bank," he said. "There
was no effort for an actual expres-
sive use of this building."
It's the artists who can bring
this expression to life with their
craft. Ellen Rutt, a junior in the
school of Art & Design, painted
a mural on the wall of Univer-
sity Towers apartment building
on South University Avenue that
used to face the old Pinball Pete's
arcade building, which burned
down nearly a year ago.

street mentality."
Rutt didn't have such motiva-
tions. Rather, Rutt hopes to revive
an area marred by destruction and
perhaps even extend her painted
"Garden" beyond the wall.
"In addition to having it be
a mural I think that space has
potential for being an urban gar-
den," Rutt said, adding that she's
in talks with the student group
Cultivating Community about cre-
ating "a community space for both
art and collaboration for environ-
mental reasons."
Eventually, Rutt is open to dif-
ferent murals being displayed
on her newfound space, making
the wall a consistently changing
movement of rebirth after the
damage caused by the fire.
"I want to see what the pos-
sibility is of painting over that
wall every year and having either
myself or someone do a mural
every year," Rutt said. "So it will
be annual and something like this
will exist for a temporary period
of time."
Both Rutt and Carone agree that
street art has a distinct advantage
over the traditional act of painting
on a canvas, transcending closed
walls and reaching a broader and
unsuspecting audience.
"It's one thing to do an image
on a canvas where it's presented
in a gallery or in an art setting,
but that attracts a certain type of
person," Rutt explained. "Public
art can be seen by everyone ... it's
universally accepted or rejected,
in some ways. So that has to be
taken into consideration when
choosing images that you want to
It's that idea - that graffiti is
best when it serves a community
purpose or sends an important
message - that makes Carone so
disdainful of Graffiti Alley, proba-
bly Ann Arbor's most popular spot
for graffiti artists and viewers.
Beyond the middle-aged man
dressed head to toe in King of Pop
apparel as he swings and sings
through a rendition of "Thriller,"
the Graffiti Alley is, like it or not,
quite a spectacle. It's a veritable
labyrinth of graffiti, strewn with
Beatles lyrics, ancient spray-
painted pieces of gum and even a
Barbie doll strapped to a pole.
"I don't like the painted alley,
because there used to be a mural
there and it was beautiful," Carone
said. "Now it's been painted over
and it's just a mess - it's chaos.
"That thing is so just part of
Ann Arbor that when you do any-
thing around here, no one takes
it seriously," he added. "There's a
blend of all sorts of ideas and good
ideas are covered up by pointless
For Carone, a good idea is not
necessarily one that sends the
right message, but one that's pro-
vocative enough to incite a strong
reaction, whether it's positive or
negative, political or personal.
"If it makes people think, if all
they have to do is walk past it and
think, it makes the area a better

"The Garden" is a graffiti work designed to bring beauty to a spot that could use it.

"I've seen really cool KELEKI GOTTSCHALK
graffiti and seen -LSA AND MT&D SENIOR
really crappy graffiti.
I've seen really cool art
and really crappy art. As
long as it doesn't, let's see,
as long as it's notcom-
promising the structural
integrity of something I
don't think it's vandalism.
I think it can be taste-
less and can be put in the
wrong places. Generally,
I think it's cool. If it'swell
done it can add character
to a city."
one of the old-
est forms of.art....
I like a lot of graf-
fiti, provided it's
done well. It can
certainlyhave the
potential to have
a powerful

"Once they painted over the
wall (after Pinball Pete's burned
down) it seemed like a really per-
fect opportunity to take advan-
tage of this space that no one was
doing anything with," said Rutt,
who lived in University Towers at
the time.
The mural, called "The Garden,"
features surreal flowers painted
with various vibrant reds, blues and
greens and was completed this past
summer. Rutt painted her name
and contact information next to
the mural. She had no need to hide
her identity, as she gained approval
from the property manager of Uni-
versity Towers beforehand.
"(The property manager) had
me fill out some sort of proposal
and present an idea to her ... just to
make sure it wasn't gang affiliated
or really racist," Rutt said. "While
I was making it, people would
come up and talk to me about it,

ask me what I was doing and why I
was doing it. I had quite a few offi-
cers approach me."
Graffiti has long been crimi-
nalized as an act of vandalism
and defacement of property.
Ann Arbor law penalizes graf-
fiti offenses with restitution, com-
munity service and a fine of up to
$500. In addition, the graffitied
business can pursue civil litiga-
tion. For this reason, many local
graffiti artists wouldn't consent to
being interviewed for this story.
Rutt said she knows people who
engage in illicit tagging in Ann
"People do tons of stuff on
North Campus but it's not nearly
as public as doing it on Central
Campus," Rutt said. "There's a
very distinct group of people who
travel around North Campus."
Carone attributes the act of
tagging to graffiti's urban roots,
where tags would represent ter-
ritories that belonged to certain
"There is still that mid-'90s
mentality of ... someone tower-
ing over a certain area or being
the king of something," Carone
said. "I'm not a really big fan
of that way of thinking but it's
really integral - it's like street
advertising, like putting your
band's flier up. It's for a method
of art that came from a street
mentality, and is at its best a


"I really like the
graffiti inAA.
Where the burnt
down building is, I
really enjoy see-
ing that graffiti. I
also like the graf-
fiti alley. It think
it adds color and

)d why :I:

Information Session
Michigan LeyagueKalamazot
7 October 20101 7:00 pm.
Application Deadline
25 Octhoer 2010
Interview Dates
16-17 November 2010

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