Graffiti equals lost money for the U

Vandalism’s reported cost was $1,722 between July and September this year.

WBy Kevin Keen
Special to the Daily

with a single spray of paint, a person can instantly deface any surface. But a simple act of graffiti can have far-reaching effects.

University Facilities Management typically responds to about 75 to 100 instances of graffiti on campus every non-winter month, said Michael Anderson, facilities operations and maintenance service manager.

He estimated those instances represent about 90 percent of all graffiti on campus.

Steve Johnson, deputy chief of the University Police Department, said the police department maintains an intolerant attitude toward graffiti.

“It’s a blight,” Johnson said. “Graffiti is damage to property. It’s unacceptable. It’s an eye-sore.”

Cleaning up graffiti costs a significant amount of time and money, Anderson said. He said vandalism reported to Facilities Management cost $1,772 between July and September.

Between October 2005 and June 2006, removal cost the department $48,348, Anderson said.

“From a taxpayer’s standpoint, it’s annoying,” he said. “That money could be spent in academia or facilities.”

Student gardeners in the Facilities Management’s landcare division are most often the first to report graffiti, Anderson said.

“They are out on campus doing gardening, snow removal, lawn mowing, etc. and have a much better chance of seeing it,” he said.

The gardener supervisors then submit reports to the Facilities Management’s service division, which assigns a painter to remove the graffiti, Anderson said.

“The duration and damage varies quite a bit from extensive – requiring numerous coats of paint and/or removal products to get it off – to simple pressure washing,” Anderson said.

While the immediate impact of graffiti may be clear, opinions about it vary.

Art history professor Gabriel Weisberg is among those who defend the practice. He said graffiti has long played an important role in enabling citizens to criticize their leaders and government.

“The power of graffiti can have a social impact,” Weisberg said. “I don’t necessarily see it as a bad thing. Sure, it defaces places, but it can be inspiring, motivating.”

Chris Allen, a professional Minneapolis urban abstract artist, said he thinks graffiti artists simply aim to express themselves through their work.

“Kids are trying to make a name, a mark on society,” Allen said.

Allen, who also goes by the artist name Inkproof, said he considered graffiti a respectable art form.

Allen said he and some of his friends have made a living producing graffiti art. He also said he’s designed and created aerosol wall murals and CD album covers.

Freelance editor Yelena Kibasova welcomes comments at [email protected]