Sometime between Sunday night and Monday morning, the street art/graffiti in the picture below appeared on the side of the abandoned corner store in the Joaquin neighborhood.
I don’t know anything about this work. I don’t even know what language that is (I’m sure someone reading this post can help me out). All I know is that it’s BYU’s latest export, Jimmer, and it appears to be glued to the wall. I suspect it was put there by “Leuven”, though I’m not in-the-know enough to recognize that name or what it might mean.
I should mention that I actually like this piece. It’s interesting and aesthetically pleasing. And I believe that in a post-Banksy era, guerrilla art can be a valuable (if illegal) form of artistic expression. But I also recognize that I studied humanities, married a visual artist and am probably in the minority when it comes to opinions of what my friends might call “vandalism”.
Anyway, this piece is significant for a few reasons. Most importantly, it likely popped up in this location because the building itself is essentially abandoned and falling apart. In this post, I mentioned how the building’s current state essentially drags down the entire neighborhood. It contributes nothing but lower property values and popped bicycle tires from all the nearby broken glass. Given the character of the neighborhood, this new art/vandalism is likely only exacerbating the problem.
On the other hand, if this building was a well-used store as it was designed to be, it would likely be less prone to defacement. And that’s in addition to the many benefits of having an operational neighborhood store.
This graffiti also highlights the lack of legitimate public art in Provo. Though there are a couple of fading murals downtown, the city has basically ignored the function that public art can play in wayfinding, tourism, and simple beautification. Perhaps that’s why something like this is exciting to art lovers; it’s really all we have in Provo.
The point here is that lovers of art and haters of graffiti share a common goal in Provo: channeling the arts into productive arenas and preventing the destruction of private property. When that happens, we’ll be able to enjoy a more visually interesting and cohesive city.