Graffiti: Historic Art Form or Vandalism? — CCU Public History Fall 2018

This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website,, for more information.

By Autumn McNutt

Graffiti is represented in the form of writings and drawings that are usually displayed on public walls and surfaces. Graffiti is created with art tools such as paint, spray paint, pens, chalk, or even debris for a more eclectic approach to art. The history of graffiti is very fascinating and tricky in its explanation.

Some people do not agree that the defacement of public property for ones creative interest can be considered an art form. In the modern era it was considered a crime and participants faced fines and vandalism charges for taking part in showcasing their art on public and private property. Graffiti can be used for various stances on political and social opinions. In Berlin, most of the graffiti has been preserved for the interest of historic, political commentary, criticism, and reflection that dates back to post World War II Germany. The East Side Gallery is one of the best examples that illustrate how graffiti is interpreted as a form of protest. There are one hundred and five from artists all over the world that have participated in this lively and visually fascinated gallery. It not only a form of protest but a rebellion against years of tyranny and oppression that has proven to provide an outlet desired for political change and personal freedom.

What many people aren’t aware of is that Graffiti has been popular since the ancient times. Some of the early evidence of Graffiti dates back to ancient Egypt and Greece. For example, an excavated street address written on a building in the Greek city of Ephesus is thought to have been an advertisement for a brothel. Other ancient graffiti found today is also personal in nature, and might involve messages regarding individual love and interest. Graffiti excavated in Pompeii contains examples of spells, slogans, and literary quotes, which has given historians a great deal of information about ancient life in Pompeii during its final days. For instance, the recent excavated Graffiti that has shed light on a possible re-interpretation of when Pompeii was destroyed.

Recently, graffiti can be associated with Hip-Hop and pop culture, particularly in the U.S. In countries like Brazil, graffiti has a more respectful connotation and reputation that haa allowed buildings to be commissioned. There are many groups and organizations that have advocated to legitimize and embrace graffiti art as an actual art form. However, many graffiti artists continue to be treated as criminals and vandals in the eyes of government officials and law enforcement. Because of the legal disputes of graffiti, many of these artists have learned to work quickly and efficiently, and a lot have to maneuver around certain times in the day to be able to showcase their art.

While these controversies inhibit certain work, many people who advocate for this form of art, have created galleries and exhibits that showcase graffiti and the history that it has endured for centuries.

Works Citied

via Graffiti: Historic Art Form or Vandalism? — CCU Public History Fall 2018

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