来源:VOA 2019-04-05



Preserving Street Art in Washington, DC

Washington, D.C. has a complex relationship with graffiti and street art.

Local street artist Gobi knows this well. Not long ago, a police officer caught him spraying colorful paint on the side of a building. Gobi did not get permission to put his design on the building. What he was doing, then, was illegal.

The police officer arrested Gobi.

Then, he asked Gobi for his business card. The officer said he was interested in hiring him for a street art project in the future.

Americas capital city is trying hard to control its illegal graffiti problem. At the same time, city officials recognize the value and importance of street art.
A tribute portrait titledDABS, 2016,” a tribute portrait by Maria Miller honoring BerkeleyDabsWright.

There is a high demand for more artists to make street art legally. But the city offers few chances for young D.C. street artists to develop their skills without breaking the law.

Some local programs, however, are trying to change that.

A long history

Graffiti and street art are forms of art created on walls or public surfaces. This art is often considered illegal because it is done without the permission of the building owners.

These art forms have existed since the times of ancient Greece. But the more modern style began forming in the 1960s in the cities of New York and Philadelphia.

Graffitioften appears as words -- usually the names of the artist or their art crew. Graffiti artists write the words in creative ways and with colorful spray-paint.

Street artis more based on images. Artists try to communicate a message through these images. Large pieces of street art are also called murals.
A mural near the Rhode Island metro stop in Northeast D.C.


Graffiti and street art can be controversial. They are sometimes used to mark gang territory or damage someones property.

Washington has tried to increase its fines for illegal graffiti. Yet it is also encouraging the creation of public art and murals.

Bridging the public and the artists

Cory Stowers is a D.C.-based graffiti and street artist. He is president of the D.C. graffiti crew Double Down Kings, or 2DK. He is also the art director for Art Bloc D.C., a local street art organization.
Cory Stowers (bottom right) and members of the ArtBloc organization work on a mural in Southeast D.C.

With Art Bloc D.C., Stowers is trying to create a bridge between the street art community and the D.C. public. He helps get permission from building owners to organize large mural projects around the city.

The projects give local street artists the chance to create their art in public, without fear of breaking the law. They also give younger artists a chance to develop their skills.

These projects are important, Stowers says. D.C. is making it more and more difficult for graffiti street artists to get practice. Construction projects and increased security have taken away important practice spaces throughout the city.
Members of Art Bloc DC and 2DK work on a graffitimural in U Street.

Practice is extremely important, Stower explains. Many artists who paint popular murals in communities today got their start by painting graffiti.

Theres always this conversation that you have to have with folks and explaining to them that that young person that wrote a signature on their wall 10 years ago may be the same person that theyre asking to come paint a muralWithout one you dont get the other.”

Street artists with Art Bloc D.C. ask community members for their opinions on the murals. They want to create pieces that are meaningful for local residents. Stowers says interacting with the local community helps tohumanizegraffiti and street artists.

I think as communities start to recognize the value of public murals and they start to understand who actually can paint them, the idea of cultivating graffiti artists will become a little bit more popular.”

Beautifying the city with murals

In 2007, the city government created the program MuralsDC. The program hires artists to paint legal murals around the city.
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    Nancee Lyons is MuralsDCs art director. She says the program has two goals. One is to try to prevent illegal graffiti. The other is tobeautifythe city. Program officials believe that, if murals already cover city walls, graffiti artists will not paint over them illegally.

    Aniekan Udofia is a D.C.-based artist. He often paints for MuralsDC, and is known for his large works of art around the city.

    He says the logic of the program is correct. Unofficial rules in the street artist and graffiti community say that the more complex the work of art, the more priority it has on a wall. Large murals, then, often take priority over simpler graffiti art. They are usually not vandalized or damaged.

    “... Going over a well-done beautiful mural -- it goes outside of graffiti and at that point its just that you hate either the artist or you hate the work that has been created.”

    Udofia and his art director, Mia Duvall, agree that communicating with the local residents is very important.
    Spectators admire the new MuralsDCmural on the side of Ben's Chili Bowl.

    “I think anything you do in a public space you have to consider the community. We have to consider who is seeing this, how its going to affect them and whats important to themSo every piece we do, we really do our best to make sure that we are being sensitive and thoughtful about who has to see this every day and how they are going to embrace this

    Udofia recently finished a major MuralsDC project. It covers one of the walls of Bens Chili Bowl, a historic D.C. restaurant. The bright and colorful mural features 16 well-known African Americans, including Barack and Michelle Obama, Harriet Tubman, Muhammed Ali, and Dave Chappelle.

    The work was introduced to the public in a ceremony on June 21.
    D.C. artist Aniekan Udofia works on his new mural for MuralsDC

    Actor and comedian Dave Chappelle attended the ceremony. He told VOA that public art is an important part of a citys culture.

    “Public art gets right to the heart of a culture of a citywho they love, who they represent, whats the neighborhood about...”

    Im Phil Dierking

    Phil Dierking wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.




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