Artist seeks graffiti wall

Art subculture would be preserved while vandalism reduced in Terrace, BC

A LOCAL artist pitched a colourful compromise to Terrace’s city council last night, asking the city to help find a designated graffiti wall that could preserve an artistic subculture while hopefully reducing vandalism in the city.

“I’m Matthew Christopher Daratha, a local artist trying to cut back on the chicken-scratch art around town here in Terrace B.C.,” he said, introducing himself to council Oct. 22.

Daratha, who’s legally spray-painted expressions can be found on fire hydrants throughout the downtown core, said a designated wall could create a way for graffiti art to be supervised and controlled while providing an outlet for artists who prefer spray painting outdoor surfaces as their creative medium.

“The artists would get the freedom to come and create any time of the day. The artists will not bother other businesses and tax paying citizens no longer have to worry about the cops trying to catch these artists at night,” he said. “A possible decrease in graffiti related crimes and increase in savings for local businesses.”

Daratha also volunteered himself as the ‘graf police’, meaning he would supervise the wall and ensure racial slurs or other offensive content would be removed post haste.

But during council’s questioning it was raised — are you sure this will work?

“I just want to know the difference between art and graffiti,” asked councillor Marylin Davies, an artist and former teacher. “How would you control one from the other?”

“I can’t stop the artists,” Daratha responded. “I’m just looking for someone else to place them.”

Councillor Brian Downie dug a bit deeper in differentiating graffiti and art.

“The rash of what we would call graffiti, but it’s really tagging, around town, is something that is vandalism,” he said. “It’s happening on top of signs … I don’t see that having a wall is going to change that.”

Downie expressed concern that a dedicated wall could be seen as a permissive gateway to more vandalism created by the city.

“I don’t really think that what you’re proposing here is going to give us a lasting benefit in the community?”

In response, Daratha shone light upon an aspect of the graffiti subculture.

For those who want to paint and create art, it gives them a legal venue to paint in their style — with a graffiti war being when an artist white washes an existing artist’s work and paints over top with his or her distinct style, he said.

“What you’re seeing out there is maybe four artists at war out there with each other’s art,” said Daratha.

“There’s  tag wars and there’s graffiti wars,” he said, adding that tagging is more like an artist (or vandal’s) distinct signature. “But that’s not art, its more like chicken scratch.”

Initially, councillor Bruce Bidgood suggested council look to city staff to determine if any walls would be appropriate for such a purpose.

But councillor James Cordeiro cautioned it needn’t go that far yet.

“I think before it gets to that point the administration needs to look … I think what was done at the [now-demolished] Co-op, while it may have had the best intentions proved to be just short of disastrous,” he said.

Prior to the demolition, it was designated a graffiti-friendly space where even mayor Dave Pernarowski showed up to display his art.

“Reviews are less than positive ,” said Cordeiro. ” I think a much more constructive project (would be) contacting local businesses to do murals.”

“People will tag (regardless) to get gratification,” he added.

“I’m inclined to support councillor Codeiro’s idea,” added Davies.

Councillor Lynne Christiansen said council should investigate what’s being done to reduce graffiti vandalism and move it toward graffiti art in other communities.

In the end, council chose not to endorse the graffiti wall idea right away but to instead look into other avenues of outdoor artistic expression.