By their very nature cities have their own vibe, a cultural personality that no other city embodies. A unique indicator. This cultural marker shows up in many different ways. Sometimes a city, or parts of a city, are known for being “artistic” in nature. Museums, art studios, sculpture parks are the norm while others may be known for their financial or business affiliations. Perhaps it’s the music, fashion, or culinary sensitivities that dictate the personality of a particular cities culture or even its subculture.
When a culture starts to reveal itself people rally around its story and its at that point when a city will say things like “we’re known for our beer,” or “our city has a great music scene.” Its that thing that puts you on the map. that one thing, or a combination of things, that make a cities DNA unique.
…But then you have the cultural disruptors that are part of every city. Those individuals or groups that live within the shadows as their own unique personalities, hidden in plain sight, are painted across a cities landscape with artistic freedom and a hint of rebellious euphoria. Welcome to the world of the Graffiti artist (Grand Rapids style). A subculture of political, personal, and social commentaries artistically, and controversially, changing the landscape of cities everywhere.
The art of graffiti is not a unique strand of DNA relegated to certain cities with a certain bend or undercurrent running through its blood. Graffiti is a cultural norm that all cities share as part of a larger more connected narrative. It’s actually one of the constant threads that weaves through all of our stories and knits us together within its patchwork of cultural conformities and its hidden deformities.
Graffiti in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as with most cities in the United States, is illegal. And a task force entrusted with the beautification of our downtown area rolls their own paint over graffitied walls as quickly as artists cover them. The images captured here were taken between March and April of 2015 in Grand Rapids.