PEDALS IN THE WIND
“Stop putting graffiti on that box,” yelled a lady as she was driving through the traffic light. This was the second day of painting my third utility box: “Pedals in the Wind.” I tried to explain to her that it was part of the city’s utility box beautification program called “Project Paint Box.” She didn’t buy it.
Her comment made me think about art versus graffiti. Is graffiti art? Is it always vandalism? What is art? What is street art? What is graffiti?
Banksy, an anonymous English graffiti artist, uses stencils and spray paint to spread messages of art and politics on crowded city streets, walls, and bridges. His name and identity remain unknown – graffiti is a crime. However, in 2010, Time Magazine featured Banksy as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Utility boxes have flowered into some of the best showcases for public art. To deter them from graffiti, cities around the world are asking local artists to use them as a canvas for artistic expression – with council prior approval of the design.
The lady that thought I was defacing the utility box with graffiti did return to apologize. She was trying to be a conscientious citizen. That was very brave of her. Street art will continue to spark debate: Is it art? Is it graffiti? I would love to hear Banksy’s take on it one day.
On behalf of myself and the city of Pleasanton, I'd like to thank Bob and Joanne Rossi Becker for sponsoring another box. Kudos also go to Robbie Helms at Valley View Elementary School for coming up with the awesome title: “Pedals in the Wind.”