“What’s the difference between graffiti and art? All it is, is permission, that’s all, because some of these taggers are really talented.”
Coming from Darren Stackhouse, whose newest job is to find and eradicate graffiti wherever it may be found in Town of Ladysmith public spaces, that may sound like a case of ‘love thine enemy,’ but perhaps it could be thought of more pragmatically as knowing graffiti well.
For 10 years or more Stackhouse, whose company SEI Chemicals Canada has been working with municipalities from Campbell River to Nanaimo and Victoria blasting away graffiti before the taggers’ paint really gets a chance to dry.
Now he’s the frontline guy implementing the Town of Ladysmith’s new policy of removing graffiti within 24 hours. The hope is taggers will be discouraged if they know their works are not likely to be seen.
“Ladysmith has said they are going to be more proactive,” Stackhouse said. It’s a policy that has worked elsewhere.
“We’ve promised we’ll be here within 24 hours to remove any graffiti, Stackhouse said. “The more they know that, the more the taggers will go someplace else.”
He added that removing graffiti quickly is also more economical. “The longer it stays on, the longer the sun has to bake it,” he explained. And once the paint gets deeper into the concrete canvasses taggers prefer, it drastically ups the time and cost it takes to remove it.
People have lots of misconceptions about graffiti. For instance, many young people are as annoyed as adults by what taggers consider ‘art.’ He used skate boarders as an example. “They hate taggers, because the latex the taggers use is slippery,” Stackhouse said.
Or the notion that there must be an army of taggers out there. “One tagger could to all this in a single night,” he said, looking around the Frank Jameson Community Centre skate park. He classifies tagging as a ‘recognized addiction.’
Part of the kick is anonymous notoriety. Take that away, and for many the thrill is gone, too. In other jurisdictions Stackhouse has worked it has taken a couple of months to sink in, but graffiti artists get the message that their moment of notoriety is going to be too short lived to be memorable.