A man and a woman were arrested last night while tagging the vacant Smith Furniture building on Washington Street. Many in the business community are obviously pleased about this. The feeling, however, isn’t unanimous. The following note, sent to the Director of the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority today, comes from James Marks, the owner of the screen-printing shop VG Kids:
I suggest we pause for a moment and take a real look at our priorities and vision for downtown.
We talk about being bold, taking risks, being unique, and supporting our alternative culture. And yet here we are applauding the arrest of 2 community members applying those goals in a very real, tangible, and in my opinion, valuable manner.
The two people who were arrested are not thougtless destroyers of property, and it’s important to distinguish their work from those that are. They are artists, and if all our talk of ‘we’re not Maybury’ is true, they’re on our side.
They understand and accept the risks they take to better our city. But as it will ultimately be the stakeholders who will benefit from their investment, it would be wise to show, if not outward appreciation, the occasional blind eye.
It’s a complicated issue. Personally, I detest what I perceive to be vandalism. But, at the same time, I really like the tags I consider to be art. It’s subjective. Ypsi has a vibrant tagging and sticker culture, and, I know I’ll take a lot of shit for saying so, but, for the most part, I appreciate it. I don’t think it belongs on residences, or on the fronts of commercial buildings, but I enjoy most of what I see in alleys, on sidewalks, and on the backs of signs around town.
I think there’s a place of it. I think it’s legitimate art. And, I agree with James, that it, to some extent, is the price you pay for living in a vibrant, young community in which new ideas are constant percolating. And, given the amount of sanctioned advertising that we’re all forced to accept and consume each and every day, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that we the people be given an opportunity to advertise what it is that we find worth promoting.
Why is the wolf image above vandalism, and the liquor ad on Michigan Avenue OK? Because they pay money, does that make it right?
I don’t know what the answer is, but I don’t think we as a community can just come out and say, across the board, that tagging, stickering and posting flyers is vandalism. I know it’s a slippery slope, but I think we’ve got to find some kind of compromise that we can all live with.