Graffiti Panic

April 21st, 2009  |  Published in Bloomington

This is a letter to the editor that I just submitted in response to an editorial in today’s H-T, Graffiti not art; it is vandalism:

I was disappointed by today’s editorial condemning graffiti.  Rather than fostering a nuanced and frank dialog about complicated issues like the state of public and private spaces in Bloomington, the editorial’s intention seemed only to attempt to induce panic.  Why even mention the specter of gang violence when the police department confirms that graffiti in Bloomington has no relation to such violence?  Furthermore, I am disappointed by the brief mention of the “broken windows theory”  and other studies outside of the context of a broader body of research.  This theory, like many sociological theories, is still being widely debated.  For instance, one study by researchers Robert J. Sampson of Harvard University and Stephen W. Raudenbush of the University of Michigan suggests that rather than being inherently problematic to the well-being of a neighborhood, graffiti (among other things) invokes deep-rooted anxieties and prejudices that people have about changing class and race dynamics of a community.  Ultimately, I am far more concerned about the high costs of renting spaces, barriers to starting businesses, and difficulty finding employment in Bloomington.  If we do not address these factors, graffiti may be the only way that many can participate in Bloomington’s downtown.