Kalamazoo, Can We Normalize Street Art?
The city of Kalamazoo has undergone many changes within the past few years, let alone the past decade. With planned changes for the city, and unexpected outcomes from Covid-19, what will the future of our city look like? While our location puts us in a relatively safe spot from harsh weather like hurricanes and tornadoes, the severity of our winters put a toll on the upkeep of our city streets. Though Michiganders choose to joke about the ‘state flower being a traffic cone’, it is also very much a reality for the state. With so much upkeep and changes every year, could we embrace a new change that would allow local artists to display their work on the streets? Street art has a way of brightening a city, waking people up to certain situations, or making light of the local community; should Kalamazoo adopt a more open mind to street art and similar graffiti?
Is Street Art Legal in Michigan?
Street art, or graffiti, is considered an act of vandalism unless permission has been given by the owner or company of the building. This is regardless of product used in the act: paint, spray paint, brushes, etc. If one is caught during these acts, they can be charged with destruction of property along with a fine. However, what if a business were to embrace the creativity of local artists? Many cities in other states have a registry where they allow a certain number of permits for street artists. Should Michigan? This allows local artists to be paid for their work, rather than risk their freedom for a beautiful illegal act.
Using Street Art to Revive Michigan Cities
Some people might view street art as a nuisance, while most people view this artistic form of expression as a creative way to highlight certain things in the community. Graffiti and similar art have caused controversy for decades. Does this form of art follow the right to a person's first amendment? When does this type of art transition from personal expression into a promotional advertisement? Is it seen as a promotion if the company in question didn’t know, and was solely the thought and work of the artist?
There are many thin lines in relation to street art, but isn’t the after effect of this work worth it for the overall health of the community? What if the buildings that were getting covered up were in fact the run-down buildings in the area? Kalamazoo is no stranger to abandoned buildings (though more are still constructed every year) and rather than let them continue to sit there and decay, wouldn’t it be more beneficial to the local community as a whole to brighten those spots in the city? Art like that of street murals showcase the culture and creativity of the city better than the well-known businesses and corporations can.
Kalamazoo currently has a few murals and similar street art, but not many. As a person who travels frequently, I love to stop to take pictures of this kind of art, and I usually stop inside the businesses because I’m so intrigued. What if a local sign-up were to start? What Kalamazoo businesses would take action and enjoy these creative acts?