Provo Police Battle Banksy’s Legacy

Someone decided to create an “authorized graffiti area” in Provo, and the police spent Tuesday cleaning it up. My colleague Genelle Pugmire writes that the work was likely inspired by well-known graffiti artist Banksy:

[Police special operations coordinator Jana-Lee] Haigh believes the stencil idea was influenced by a 2010 documentary at the Sundance Film Festival on Banksy, a British graffiti artist whose art is typically a commentary on politics and society.

“After they screened the movie, stenciled graffiti went up in Park City,” Haigh said.

No matter what the graffiti says or looks like, Provo’s policy is to paint over or power wash graffiti within 48 hours, according Haigh.

I suspect most street artists knew about Banksy before the Sundance movie about him, but there’s no doubt that the Provo piece was inspired by that world famous artist. Daily Herald photographer James Roh took a picture of the piece, which can be viewed along with the article.

Part of a piece by Leuven that went up in June.

Part of a piece by Leuven that went up in June.

I’ve written repeatedly about street art on this blog, most often about the work of wheat-paste extraordinaire Leuven. My feeling has always been that while questionably legal street art can enrich a community and elicit thought-provoking experiences from otherwise boring places.

But it is controversial, as The Atlantic Cities recently pointed out:

Street art has long had a strained relationship with the public, with illegal graffiti and tags considered symbols of urban decay. But that relationship has become more complicated as a new generation of street artists teams up with officials and businesses on legally sanctioned projects to revitalize public space.

That article packs a lot of information, much of it about Atlanta, but the idea that emerges is that street art is increasingly recognized as a potential positive force in certain situations.

In Provo, moreover, a young and fast-growing population means there will not likely be a decrease in the number of artists willing to go out and use other people’s blank walls for canvases. Police can fight that trend, but it might also be worth officially embracing it with just the sort of authorized area that someone recently invented.

The entire piece includes images of two people looking at each other.

The entire piece includes images of two people looking at each other.

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