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In Living Colour

Jody Vance: Like it or not, graffiti is art. And like any art form, it’s worth celebrating the good.

The story of Banksy is that of a brilliant artist found through graffiti. It’s time we learned from that.

Last month there was a story of a memorial bench, lovingly painted by a grieving loved one, tagged as graffiti — it too looks a lot like art. It’s long since been knocked from the headlines, but you may have heard about Colin Mackay’s memorial bench at Kits beach.

Located at Ogden and Maple, the bench was transformed by his partner of nine years — an artist named Julia Goudkova. Julia spent four days sanding, washing, priming and painting the bench to honour Colin.

At first, the Vancouver Parks Board planned to remove the bench — it is unauthorized, and therefore classified as graffiti. But with some help from commissioner Tricia Barker putting forth a motion to explore a memorial bench beautification program, Julia will see the bench stay.

It’s time to find The Middle on graffiti.

Yes, of course there is no shortage of offensive, property-destroying graffiti — that’s not today’s jumping off point. There will always be bad apples, who should be hit with mischief charges and cover cost of clean-up or repair. But graffiti art should not all be painted with one brush – or can.

Many of us have come to embrace public art that represents the everyday person, not just the spendy taxpayer sort.

Consider A-maze-ing Laughter at English Bay. Originally priced at a whopping $5 Million — slashed to the “modest” $1.5M which the Biennale Foundation is now trying to raise, it is very cool and a landmark – but we should also embrace the splash of brilliant inspiration that comes from freedom of expression and art. Graffiti, free form and free art, done by locals with a passion.

With the evolution of public art, it’s time to see an evolution in the laws around graffiti. Whether in Eastside alleys or Main Street buildings — we’ve come to appreciate murals, haven’t we?

Setting aside obvious crime- or gang- related examples, we should consider more of what is cool about graffiti. We need more spaces like Train Wreck Park in Whistler, a graffiti zone, for budding artists in our city.

Not every artist can afford the PR required to make the cut for the Vancouver Biennale, or put themselves forward for consideration by City authorities. But lost among those we might have a Banksy in our midst, and not know it.

Let’s get our heads around art that doesn’t only come with rich people in tow.

If you google “Graffiti Laws Canada” the RCMP site comes up:

Graffiti vandals may believe their actions harm no one. But the reality is graffiti sends the message that nobody cares, it attracts other forms of crime and it decreases residents’ feelings of safety.” It goes on to list facts about “the ugly side” of graffiti.

Yes, there are elements of graffiti with negative connotations and gang associations – but there is Middle here. It can be found at the ART of it.

Young, talented artists break out the cans and make incredibly intricate, impactful and thought-provoking pieces worthy of any gallery.

We need more of what’s happening now at the Vancouver Mural Festival. A yearly fundraiser for The Holden Courage Memorial Fund for Artists embodies the idea of celebrating graffiti in a new way; an Instagram art auction where you can purchase a small piece of graffiti to hang in your own home.

All proceeds go to support young graffiti artists in Vancouver. Bid on Instagram @TheSeferProject, the auction closes Saturday at 7:00 pm.

From The Sefer Project

The project, created by well-known Vancouver broadcaster Tara McGuire is a graffiti exhibit and foundation created in memory of her son Holden Courage, lost too soon and whose art is greatly missed by many, including his graffiti artist brothers and sisters.

Look up to see how you can support budding Banksys in our midst.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.