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Graffiti’s Impact: Art or Vandalism?

By: Neha Ayyer

From London to India and all the way to the Americas, graffiti is everywhere. It covers the walls of buildings, bridges, freeways, and train stations, showcasing the talent of those that create vivid imagery. But, graffiti has more value than just aesthetics: Street art has a social or political message attached to it. It gives artists a way to bring up real issues happening in their homes, especially when they’re most needed.

Mainstream media, however, views graffiti as vandalism—toxic art that should be removed as soon as possible. By using a method called agenda-setting, a practice that influences the accuracy of certain topics in the public, they mold, twist, and alter stories to make them more interesting and change the publics’ view on certain issues. Broadcasters often incorporate graffiti with criminals, minorities, the “lower class”, gangs, and violence. The media does not point out any good done through street art, and the success of graffiti movements is often ignored.

Modern cities, such as Miami, embrace graffiti as a legitimate art form by hosting art galleries filled with street art. These movements empower people instead of discouraging them. It brings people together in a time of disaster. These art pieces illustrate the stories and struggles that the artist faces, which build connections within communities and ultimately unites them.

Graffiti can also be very stress-relieving. Artists unpacking personal baggage can help take weight off of their shoulders. Their representation might also relate to other people, giving painters a support system and a sense of belonging to a community.

By now, you’re probably convinced that street art can be a good thing. But how do graffiti rights look around the world? In Yangon, Myanmar, the government doesn’t allow artists access to work in public places. There have been lots of protests surrounding this issue since Myanmar has a history of oppressive rule, and artists cannot express their concerns freely. In Zimbabwe, most road paintings are about dissatisfactions people have concerning the socio-political landscape in their homeland. Many artists get arrested for expressing their views.

Graffiti should be recognized as art and not vandalism. Street art beautifies cities by making them look unique and personal. It is also a social movement and a source for artists to bring up real issues happening around the world. Plus, graffiti is an important part of an artists’ identity as well as their home’s history. As a non-violent form of expression, it should not be restricted or limited. The world is a canvas, and artists should be allowed to cover it as they please.



Graffiti For Social Change. Graffiti For Social Change, 4 May 2013,

Keady, Cameron. “Graffiti Can Actually Be A Good Thing For Cities.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 10 Nov. 2015,

Writer, Sami Delavari - Staff. “Graffiti Should Be Recognized as Art, Not Vandalism.” Calabasas Courier Online, 31 Oct. 2013,


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