Smell Test

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Plus, let's be honest. In P-town, where there's this vast, sprawling sameness, graffiti livens up the joint, even when it's illegal. Folks squawk about vandalism and urban blight, but as any finch can see while flying around downtown, most of this burg's blight's caused by this city's need to mindlessly tear down, rebuild, and tear down again. Look at all the crap being done downtown for light rail. Maybe it'll all be good in the end but, in the meantime, much of downtown looks like one, big, gnarly bunghole.

Along comes KTAR's Darrell Ankarlo who wanted to tear this thrush a new one on the issue. His argument? It's illegal, dodo! (Hmmm, where's this warbler heard that one before?) Ankarlo invited this hummingbird on to respond. KTAR's wanna-be Bill O’Reilly cited recent vandalism of school buses in Scottsdale. The Bird rightly pointed out those perp-twerps weren't exactly graffiti artists. Mainly what they did was bang in some windows.

This mockingbird, rather, was championing PHX street artists such as El Mac, whose work recalls at times Andy Warhol, Hans Holbein, Raphael, and Rubens. His work in town is all legal these days and, thus, likely to last longer. He travels the world, has had art shows all over, and was recently honored by New Times' sister rag LA Weekly with a cover shot of one of his collaborations with another artist.

There are other great artists in town, like the poster artist Resist, or the whole crew of writers who've laid down some freakin' amazing work on a long legal wall that encircles Miranda’s Custom Cars, at Central and Grant.

Even Ankarlo seemed to agree that the city needs more legal walls. But he and callers croaked that the illegal stuff was a no-go. This worm-wrangler disagreed. Take the S.O.S. crew, which has hit up abandoned buildings that've since been torn down, or those ugly fuchsia Dumpsters that are parked all over central Phoenix. This hurts people how?

"I remember you did a piece on the cameras that Scottsdale was using on the freeway, and you admitted that you speed," this cockatoo reminded Ankarlo. "Now I would gather that more people die from speeding than creating graffiti. So you can argue about the legality of it, but I'd say what you were talking about can create a fatality, whereas graffiti cannot."

KTAR has a link to the verbal karate match here: Ankarlo and some callers got in a lick or two, but this lapwing held his own. So what if the city has to buff some spots to rid itself of unwanted tags? If out of all the dross emerges one great street artist, like a Basquiat, a Keith Haring, or a Banksy, it's worth it.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons