Witchita — Curvy, colorful art, or plain vandalism?
A forum on graffiti inspired by an exhibition on graffiti-inspired paintings opened the question to debate Friday night at an arts facility in Wichita.
The forum's panel included members of the Wichita arts establishment, a break-dancing representative of the graffiti scene and a businessman whose buildings have become a canvas for such artists.
Moderator Ann Resnick, an artist and gallery owner, opened the discussion by asking if graffiti was a "primal urge" akin to the ancient petroglyphs.
Mario Caro, an art historian at Wichita State University, spoke of graffiti's inherently "transgressive" nature. Charles Steiner, director of the Wichita Art Museum, referred to abstract expressionism and a recent Harvard University exhibition in his opening remarks.
Arthur Jermaine Cooks, who signs his graffiti and graffiti-inspired canvas works as Main One, struck a decidedly less erudite tone, speaking about artists who are "gettin' busy" with graffiti and said, "I stand by it."
Rhonda Holman, a Wichita Eagle editorial writer and former art critic, conceded she responds to graffiti's raw qualities, but said she was "enough of a member of the established to see that it's a crime, not a victimless crime, with a societal cost."
Businessman Richard Vliet, who has routinely paid to remove graffiti from his restored Old Town buildings, praised graffiti artists but said, "It makes me angry to come down to work and see a building defaced."
Graffiti artists were urged to seek legal media, though there was general agreement that such works are not true graffiti, which by definition appears on public structures and draws on its illegality.