Atlanta’s attitude towards graffiti and distinction between violation and art is captured in on the streets and in the classrooms around the metropolis. From the overwhelming amount of tagging and bombing in the Krog Street Tunnel to the massive murals and business commissioned advertisements all over the City.
Paideia School offers a class in graffiti as part of their 2-week short semester (a dedicated portion of the school year to arts, every last 2 weeks of the school year). Students have the option to take courses in contemporary (non-traditional art) like Manners, African Drumming and Graffiti.
On this sunny morning, I got a tip that a bunch of kids were out in Lil’ Five Points with spray paint cans. When I arrived, I found a class of roughly 40 students under the direction of teacher Oman Frame, engaged in a lesson on street art and integrity. Frame explained the creative process; politics involved with acquiring a wall; the responsibility of maintaining a professional relationship with the owners; and the meaning of integrity. The students voted on the quote “And if The Music is Good, You Dance”.
The wall is part of a 4-year long relationship between local graffiti artist, SKIE, and the owners of the plot. SKIE creates new walls every few months offering the community a contemporary reimagining of street art with strong references to 80’s and 90’s inspired cartoons and animation. Frame secured this space temporarily through an agreement with the artist illustrating the due process for public works projects. Not only did students get a first hand lesson in street politics, they also had the opportunity to paint alongside a prominent and active graffiti writer in the Atlanta area.
When asked for their thoughts on graffiti they described it as dichotomous. “There is good graffiti and bad graffiti. Bad graffiti is one that is just for attention, like someone’s name…..Good graffiti is like a picture of something or looks like it took a long time to make.”
While I am not sure that using the same strict polarities to describe art is okay, I do commend Paideia School, Oman Frame, SKIE and the community at large for supporting alternate perspectives on art, thus life. I believe it is activities such as these that work to counter easy classifications of people, places and activities.
Though, I am thoroughly impressed by Atlanta’s support of street art I wonder what kind of effect this will have on the criminalization of unauthorized street art and the prevalence of bombing. One student explains how her perception of graffiti changed, now when she rides around with her mother in the car she identifies good graffiti and bad graffiti.
If you are in the area, take a stroll behind Junkman’s Daughter, 464 Moreland Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30307 to see graffiti being used as a tool in education. A little birdie says, this week they will be working at SoundTable, 483 Edgewood Avenue SE, Atlanta, GA 30312. Shhhhh…