09 October 2008

Denver Graffiti Artists Inspire, Violate Zoning, and Spark Controversy

If Denver and Oaxaca have one thing in common aside from the paleta man and tacos al pastor on city street corners, it's the spray painting. In Oaxaca the tags, almost always political in nature, would go up over night and in some cases be painted over the very next day. In Denver the tagging is almost always gang related, and a call to 311 routes the caller to a special city department specifically for paint complaints.

I'm not naive enough to be surprised by the city response to this mural. You'd think, however, that with Denver's ongoing struggle to contain the graffiti here, city officials would seize on the power of a positive message as a community outreach tool to get kids involved in healthy activity wherever possible.

From the Post: "The mural violates the city's laws governing political signs,
said Assistant City Attorney Kerry Buckey. Those laws restrict political signs on private property to no more than 8 square feet."

Does anybody have any idea whether there's a free speech violation there? And does this mean that large-scale art in public view must be apolitical? Because I can see an argument where this is not a "political sign" but an artwork on private property. One of the comments on the Post article suggest that if the kids get rid of the word "Vote," then they'll be alright. But would that in fact be enough?

More here from the LAT.