Crimes costing tens of thousands morphed into community contribution?

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
August 7th, 2013

Graffiti has cost the city and local enterprise countless dollars, including upwards of $10,000 damage last weekend alone (see: https://castlegarsource.com/news/vandals-cause-upwards-10000-damage-over-long-weekend-25885#.UgLC4W0dLtQ ), but some locals are trying to find ways to bring the perpetrators into the community’s embrace by providing more productive outlets for what has always been a counter-culture approach to art.

Audrey Maxwell Polovnikoff, chair of the Kootenay Festival Committee, helped spearhead just such an outlet with this year’s ‘Creative Blenz’ event to wrap up the day-long festival on July 27 (https://castlegarsource.com/news/graffiti-colour-kootenay-festival-25356#.UgLE020dLtQ) but she said it’s important to distinguish between graffiti art and simple vandalism (spray-painting foul language, vulgar drawings, etc.)

She said the latter is just senseless destruction – but the former is a genuine artform that can net artists actual paydays instead of criminal charges if they use the right venue.

“There’s real money in graffiti art, if it’s done on canvas,” she said, adding the festival saw six artists between 12 and 20 years old, one of whom (Travis Spender) sold two canvasses on the spot at the festival’s art demonstration.

She said one of the purposes of the event was to showcase local talent in a respectful way the community could appreciate and enjoy.

Getting on board with the idea of legitimizing true graffiti art is the West Kootenay Roller Derby association, according to marketing/media director Amber “Pants Off” Harper.

“We have use of the old Extra Foods building right off Baker in Nelson,” she said. “It’s a big facility, with just concrete walls and plain drywall.

“We’ve had a couple of artists through so far, but there’s still tons of space,” she added, saying the marriage of roller derby and graffiti art is a comfortable one, given that both are edgy and counter-culture.

And while they’re not offering commission or paycheques, she said the prestige of having your work showcased within the home of one the region’s most popular and up-and-coming sporting venues is a pay day in its own right.

The question now becomes whether local graffiti artists will be willing to trade criminality for community contribution, distinguishing themselves from common, vulgar and often talentless vandals.



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