MODESTO — Whoa, hold your horses! It seems that Councilman John Gunderson has introduced an idea to our City Council suggesting that walls on commercial buildings in downtown Modesto would be a suitable canvas for select "graffiti artists."
You and I would call this just plain ol' graffiti, whereas he and his cohorts have cleverly begun to call such projects murals, public art, urban beautification and even "tasteful work."
I must say that graffiti, which decorates many spots in my neighborhood, is better described as "dreadful."
Art is difficult to define. What is beautiful to one person may not be so to another. An array of painting styles, subjects, and colors sprinkled throughout our downtown by spray painters cannot possibly be considered "enhancing the city landscape," as claimed by Amy Vickery in her October letter printed in The Bee. (Her husband painted the automobile we see on the wall at 13th and J streets.)
Consider as well, that Modesto community leaders hope to encourage visitors to regard our town as a fine place to bring their businesses, hire employees, buy homes and invest in property that Modesto is a good place to live and play in. But we still can't hide the nasty graffiti on trains straddling most of our downtown, can we? Isn't this bad enough for such prospects to observe? Do we really need extra graffiti embellishing our buildings, too?
Recently I took a bus excursion to San Francisco and driving back through town on Geary Street, I was appalled to see block after block of commercial units with tawdry store fronts, each trying to outdo the other with cheap, flashy signs it was a pitiful cacophony of gaudy graffiti in an otherwise lovely city.
The car painted by Aaron Vickery on the building at 13th and J streets is nicely done. And you can see more samples painted by others on the outer wall of the Chamber of Commerce and another at 303 Downey Ave. Take a look and make your own judgment. Also, by stepping into the shop where the Vickery piece is located, the Peer Recovery Gallery, you'll see more proposed examples.
Councilmembers, I hope you will make this tour also, because there are plans to "decorate" the big wall of Camp 4 on Needham Avenue. This one scares the liver out of me! Defacing local buildings is a bad idea, even if an owner gives permission. Isn't a blank wall preferable to one painted by an inept tagger with little art training?
Readers, your help is needed. Pay attention to this issue and speak up forcefully and soon, before any more City Council energy is wasted on Gunderson's proposals. He has even initiated a task force to ramrod these absurd notions upon our community.
Finally, doesn't our council have more important work to do? And, if they are discussing graffiti, shouldn't it be to figure out effective ways to get rid of what already disfigures walls all over town? Please, encourage councilmembers to vote "no" on this brand of graffiti.
Kopf is an opinionated Modesto homemaker and avid gardener. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, letters to the editor are welcome in response to community columns.