Street art, graffiti can be tough to tell apart

By Hadley Stein

The debate over street art versus graffiti is an ongoing controversy, and the line drawn between the two is sometimes thin.

Brandon Smith, a lecturer in the art department, focused on the type of expression to determine if graffiti art is art or, in fact, vandalism.

“What makes something art? As one way of thinking about it, I ask if a contribution, in this case graffiti, says anything,” Smith said.

“For example, someone’s initials, in my mind, doesn’t say anything at all. We all have initials and we are all here.”

“Tagging” or placing your initials on public property is one of the most common forms of graffiti art and is almost always illegal.

The Lexington city government has a specific ordinance on graffiti, which states that “it is unlawful for any person to apply graffiti to any natural or manmade surface or property without the authority or consent of the owner, or the manager or other person having lawful control of the property.”

The law states that if someone places anything on a surface and was not given permission by the owner, it is illegal.

Street art does not only affect the students and faculty at the UK, but also many residential neighborhoods around campus.

Transylvania Park homeowner Lisa Johnson has lived near UK’s campus for 17 years and has been proactive in ending vandalism and street graffiti.

Johnson believes there is a clear line between art and vandalism.

“Murals are art, but graffiti is trash,” she said. “I cannot see any artist doing art on the back of a stop sign. When you do murals you are contributing to the community, but when you do graffiti you are dissing your community.”