TNJN Spotlight: Knoxville graffiti, vandalism or art

Love it or hate it, graffiti will probably always be a part of urban life, even in a medium-sized city such as Knoxville. Some people describe it as a public nuisance, others call it legitimate artistic expression. But whether it’s an unsightly spray-can scribble or a colorfully intricate mural, if it’s done on another person’s property without permission it can carry harsh penalties for anyone caught.

With warmer weather on the way, there is likely to be an increase in graffiti on public places throughout the city. This can be troublesome for some business owners, who often have to pay out of pocket to cover tagged walls.

Some business owners worry about the costs of cleaning up graffiti and others hire artists to cover their walls. Jeff Lee, owner of the Jump Jam trampoline park in West Knoxville, hired local artists Christina Majic and Daruth Padilla to paint the walls of his establishment in order to give the park a more interesting look and feel.

[quote]“It really gives a wild flare to the business [and] elevates the senses for our jumpers,” said Lee.[/quote]

Jump Jam is not the first business to showcase Christina and Daruth’s work.

“[I] met an owner of a tattoo shop called Jinx Proof, who let me do a mural on the back of his building,” said Majic. “Once I did that other businesses started letting me do murals on their buildings, which is where I’m at today. I absolutely think art in public places should be more accepted. When you open up a space for graffiti artists to gather and give them free range to paint a building as much as they like, something amazing happens. They cover it in beautiful art, they work together, they encourage each other and the community benefits.”

The traditional method of handling graffiti has led to tougher legislation, making anything that results in more than $500 worth of damage a felony offense in the state of Tennessee. However, many people believe that there are better ways to handle the problem.

Projects such as Alley Beautification and the Artist Alley Revamp project have attempted to deter unauthorized graffiti by allowing local artists to cover back alley walls with more tasteful works of art. Some of these paintings can be seen in the Old City and in alleyways between Market Square and Gay St.

Local artists also had an opportunity to display their skills on public property without breaking the law during the Dogwood Arts Festival “Chalk Walk,” which was held in downtown Knoxville on April 5. This event invited people of all ages to display their skills with chalk on the floors of  Market, and is an indication that the popularity of art in public places is on the rise.

Edited by Jessica Carr