By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
"Toys," says Wrek of NSK, "they don't know nothing about respecting art."
"Someone's always gonna dis," says More. "No matter what, there's always gonna be toys out there."
The occasional art curator will recognize the medium as a viable art form and design exhibitions around it; that happened recently in Tucson, when the Sixth Congress Gallery's "Spraycan Art" show featured artists like Such in a celebration of the hip-hop culture that originally launched the careers of artists like Keith Haring. Seattle did the same last year, and a few years ago, French Culture Minister Jack Lang drew the wrath of his colleagues when he organized a similar exhibition of le graff at the Museum of French Monuments at the Trocadero. Of course, after a few days there, and maybe you can call it inspiration, some patrons started marking up other works in the building with felt pens.
Jay Beswick, the National Graffiti Information Network consultant, believes the only solution is to come down hard on the perpetrators, to create tough laws and then follow through. The city has to realize that it's throwing money into a bottomless pit. In California, he points out, there are laws that allow the option of taking away someone's driver's license the first time they're caught doing graffiti; the second time, there is no option. They just do it.
He recently sent a letter to the city that expressed his overview of Phoenix based on his recent visit: On the whole, it is cleaner than Albuquerque, but maybe not for long. He estimated between 1,000 and 1,500 writers who tag at least once a week, with another 10,000 wanna-bes tagging less frequently. Many of the newer writers are middle- and upper-middle-class kids coming into Phoenix from the north, from Mesa, from Tempe. Overall, the city is where Los Angeles was in 1990, "and the decisions you make now will shape your future."
Louis Pete of the city's neighborhood services department says the next measure being considered is a fine along with financial restitution, with responsibility falling to the parents if the kid can't come up with the funds. "The businessmen are crying an awful lot right now," he says. "For a kid to just do community service does them no good."
Beswick says Pioneer Ford's program is unique in the country, a business taking on responsibility for its own community, and though change might come slowly, the X-Man is hopeful it will come for some. The opportunity is there to be taken or to be thrown away.
The day after the guys from NSK finish up the piece at Phoenix Revitalization, Pioneer Ford's cleanup crews are out there behind the apartment complex from which Asasn and his family will be evicted inside of a week. Blanketing the walls clean, they sift through the grass, careful to avoid the many needles that sometimes appear among the debris, one of the hazards of the job. One time one of the guys fell into a hole, too, but that's another story.
Moving along the wall, they spray and sift, and now something rolls out of the tall grass at the far end below a splotch of red. Just an old can of spray paint, the worker says. The brand is Glidden.
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