Somewhere during the ongoing discussion and debate about what to do about the local graffiti problem, there was a suggestion about providing a public space for street artists.
St. John’s, Mount Pearl andto a lesser extent, Conception Bay South and others have been grappling for years about what to do about the graffiti and the vandals who are tagging or marking up private and public property.
Municipalities and private property owners have made requests for harsher penalties for those found guilty of damaging property with graffiti. There have been suggestions that those convicted also be required to pay the cost of restoring the property.
While we continue to struggle with a solution, such as a public space, there are some innovative graffiti approaches in the world. I discovered one during a recent vacation which included a five-day visit to Melbourne, Australia.
Melbourne has been ranked as the world’s most livable city for the past three years, and this came as no surprise during our visit to the city in late May.
One of Melbourne’s many features and tourist attractions is the series of lanes throughout the downtown.
The city is also famous for its street art, as we found when we discovered Hosier Lane on a Sunday afternoon.
The lane is one of many painted with the city’s blessing under its graffiti management plan.
Melbourne’s plan distinguishes between graffiti or tagging on a wall with a marker or paint, and street art which is placed on walls and structures with the city’s approval.
The art in Hosier Lane was impressive. Even the dumpster belonging to one of the businesses was painted and blended into the lane.
The best part of the discovery was that we got to see an artist in action and then had an opportunity to talk with him.
Raphael is a student taking a year off and living in Melbourne and working as an au pair with a local family. He told us he paints every chance he gets and enjoys the freedom to practise his art in Melbourne.
Back home in France, he has to do his painting under the cover of darkness because it is illegal. He also told us that if you paint over someone’s work in France you may suffer some consequences from fellow painters.
In Melbourne, it is different and your work usually stays in place for a few weeks before it is painted over, with no consequences.
He also told us paint is less expensive in Melbourne so he can spend more time on his painting than he can at home.
While we were in the lane, a photographer was doing a photo shoot using the graffiti or street art as a backdrop for a model all dressed in white. As the city is famous for its street art, such a sight is likely very common.
Melbourne’s graffiti and street art also extends outside the city. During a train ride to Geelong, about an hour outside Melbourne, many of the miles of bridges, brick walls and buildings were also painted.
Providing spaces for street artists may not be the only solution to get rid of some of the vandalism and damage to property, but will provide an outlet for the more creative ones.
Of course, Melbourne still has a graffiti problem and, like our cities and towns, spends public funds to clean properties.
Our municipalities also allow controlled public painting so the Melbourne experience is an example of how to move forward with providing public spaces which could also become attractions.
As we left Hosier Lane, we gave Raphael some cash to help him buy paint for the next weekend’s project.
Joan Butler is a lifelong resident
of Kelligrews, Conception Bay South.
She can be reached by email