I Heart Street Art: Murals Vs. Graffiti

At that panel discussion last week, one of the things that came up was the idea that murals help curb vandalism. Conventional wisdom says even the most callous of vandals wouldn't dare deface the art of another artist. Therefore, the more murals you have, the less graffiti you have. One panelist even said the recent graffiti explosion correlates directly to the recent decline in funding for mural projects.

Problem is, it looks like maybe the conventional wisdom is wrong. Murals all over the Mission District are getting tagged, with no end in sight. Another panelist attributed this to a “new generation” of taggers — a generation with no respect.

So are mural projects fighting a losing battle? Are San Francisco's beautiful murals doomed to be vandalized?
Last night, I took a stroll down Orange Alley, a modest alley behind a quieter stretch of Valencia Street. The Orange Alley Mural Project is an attempt to improve the place, to turn it into a destination alleyway along the lines of Clarion or Balmy.

So far, all goes well. Contributions from artists Kyle Ranson, Chris Duncan, Brion Nuda Rosch and Charlie Callahan (pictured below, working on his sea urchin), have brightened Orange up considerably.
So what happens when some thoughtless kid tags Mr. Callahan's big pink mollusk?

Steven Weinberg, Orange Alley advocate and member of art duo Telephone and Soup, agrees that vandalism is a bummer, but believes it does not necessarily wholly detract from the oomph of the mural. The mural is still the main thing. The mural is still the thing that passersby see, and take in, and appreciate.

Like, if it's a worthy piece of art, then it's got heart. And if it's got heart, then some little inky blemish isn't going to stop it from conveying its message.
So don't stop, mural makers. Keep at it, because if it is a war, it's a war you're winning, because your stuff's got heart.

All photos courtesy of Receiver Gallery. This Saturday, they host an opening for a new exhibition of work by Porous Walker, a talented local artist who — you heard it here first — has just committed to contributing to the Orange Alley Mural Project.

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