The other night, teams of graffiti artists fanned out across Baltimore in the middle of night and tagged hundreds of public spots. According to a Sun report, they hit City Hall, shopping malls, libraries, and even schools. Besides spray cans, rags, and flashlights, the perpetrators had one other thing—permission.
It might seem odd, or even unprecedented, that the city and surrounding counties would sign off on such a massive conceptual art project involving so much public property, but I guess this project cuts to the heart of our priorities. In fact, the design of the stenciled artwork included the acronym “W.I.N.”—which stands for “what’s important now.”
And what’s so important that public officials would set aside their characterization of graffiti as vandalism and permit folks to spray that message all over town?
See, the stencil also featured the Ravens logo, was sprayed (in chalk spray) by team employees (not some group of marginalized artists), and was designed to spark civic pride—the playoffs start this weekend.
Now, I don’t want to sound like a spoiled sport, but does anyone else find this a bit hypocritical? I’ll bet that if an underground arts or activist group tagged hundreds of public spaces with the same acronym but used a different image—even something benign, such as the “scales of justice”—that sort of graffiti would still be prosecutable. Chances are the folks at City Hall, and the police, wouldn’t be pleased.
But I take some consolation that art—even corporate crap imitating street art—can be powerful, sometimes in ways its creators never intended. So if you spot the “W.I.N.” graffiti while walking around town over the coming days and weeks, you might want to pause a moment, look around, and ask yourself, “What’s important now?”