The gospel according to Jerry: Paint job or snow job?

Art is in the eye of the beholder. Still, I’m shocked that so many people seem to think graffiti is an art form and that these young people are merely “expressing” themselves. I have to assume that a lot of those apologists are the same folks who get apoplectic over the BB&T Building, Staples and the Aloft hotel and maybe also signs and billboards?

Why should the business community provide expensive easels for these poor, pitiful, pavement Picassos who roam the streets looking for property to deface?

My guess is that many of these self-serving, predominantly young people aren’t exactly starving artists, since they have money for countless cans of paint and the time to sneak around and do their mischief. I suspect that many come from at least middle-class families.

Certainly they mostly have a place to live — so why aren’t they spray-painting their own homes in their burning zeal to express themselves?

Oh, and why don’t all those folks who think graffiti is an art form just publish their addresses and give these artists permission to spray their houses? This could go a long way toward expanding the boundaries of this cutting-edge art.

Meanwhile, we could increase the diversity in Destructive Art by holding competitions in which people break randomly selected windows in aesthetically pleasing patterns. Or, for a more organic alternative, let them do wheelies in the grass on golf courses, public parks and people’s yards in ways that challenge our imagination.

Real-world costs

A couple of key questions seem pertinent. First, where are these young people’s parents? And, more importantly, are those parents actually encouraging them to perform these acts of destruction?

I would think parents would be extremely concerned about the safety of what their kids are doing. Sooner or later, one or more of these taggers might get shot by a property owner or security agent while they’re pursuing their “art.”

And then there’s the fact that much of this graffiti seems to crop up near the tops of buildings, bridges and other lofty structures. Apparently, the more risk involved, the greater the artist’s reputation. Unfortunately, one of these days some parent is going to find their child’s brains splattered all over the pavement after a failed attempt to be the most daredevil tagger of all.

The exorbitant cost of removing this graffiti, and the heavy burden it places on property owners and the community at large, have been endlessly discussed both in the media and by City Council.

The hundreds of thousands of dollars it’s taking to keep cleaning up this mess could be used to educate, train and promote young artists throughout the community. Why are we letting a small number of ne’er-do-wells deprive others of such opportunities?

The question then becomes how we can prevent these young criminals from continuing to deface our community. Allowing them to tag public walls with these indecipherable caveman hieroglyphics merely validates their “right” to continue this narcissistic outrage.

Art paper is sold all over town. Why don’t they paint on that, frame their works, and display them in local art shows? Somebody might even buy some of it.

In any case, it’s time we stopped coddling these entitled miscreants who feel they have the right to indulge in this vicious anti-establishment behavior at others’ expense.

When they’re arrested and convicted, they should be given a minimum of 20 hours a week of public service for at least six months, cleaning their beloved brothers’ artwork off of buildings, bridges, dumpsters and automobiles. If that doesn’t cure them, the second offense should mean jail time.

Indiscriminate graffiti is depressing and deleterious to our community. Let’s stop mollycoddling these spray-paint parasites and dole out some harsh punishments.

It’s time to spray-paint these “innocents” with a coat of guilt.

Asheville native Jerry Sternberg, a longtime observer of the local scene, can be reached at


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