Last week, a group of public officials and Nashville citizens gathered in Nashville’s Buena Vista neighborhood to unveil an artistically sanctioned mural that suggests some interpretation of our “community.” On the same day of the mural unveiling, Metro Public Works employees found themselves removing spray-painted squiggles off a segment of the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge. There is a stark and undeniable contrast between the two scenes. Nashville has had a long, drawn out struggle with graffiti bungling our neighborhood’s infrastructure. Since the unveiling of the Buena Vista mural, the “Exploration and Discovery” outdoor art installation at Public Square, and Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin’s visage to the “Wall of Fame” at 28th and West End avenues, a string of graffiti crimes hit downtown Nashville.
None of the occurrences were artistic and none of it seemed to relate in terms of political or gang themes and motives. The most daunting concern is that most of the defacement occurred between various unconnected sources. From May to June, vandals blemished the State Capitol with phrases such as, “Get Out” and “RIP Tony Al,” The Main Library with “Toney Stash Music,” the pedestrian bridge, and at least 10 private businesses in the downtown area. Sergeant Tony Blackburn of Metro police admitted, “We have incidents crop up from time to time, but never at this level.” Bryan Deese, a local graphic designer and founder of Concrete magazine, does professional graffiti-themed mural work and monitors both sanctioned work and illegal graffiti tagging.
“It sounds like coincidentally there were random acts of graffiti” spanning a relatively brief time period and focused on downtown, said Deese. People involved wonder if providing a local space for the public to enliven with spray paint would solve any problems. Venice Beach, California has Public Art Walls that have met much success. Unfortunately, many other city-sponsored programs that sanction graffiti often fail including Louisville, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Many critics admonish the idea, arguing that it sends mixed messages to the public about the art forms legality. Metro Police hopes that the 2 month span of graffiti tagging was a fluke, and will soon come to an end in efforts of finding and arresting the individuals that are committing the crimes (source) (picture 1) (picture 2).