Street Art vs Graffiti

Casey McGannon, Staff Writer

  • Between 17th and 18th down Valencia street in San Francisco lies Clarion Alley, a one block alley filled with murals. Decorating the walls of the alley are endless expressions of art, some political, some showing the hardships of poverty, and others simply grace the walls with their bold colors and intricate patterns. While some would argue that street art is nothing more than graffiti, it often carries a more meaningful message. Doug Rhodes, a San Francisco resident living in a building on Clarion Alley and the artist who painted the above mural, said, “ I’ve heard people complain because they think it’s graffiti ... or what they consider graffiti, they consider to be bad.”
  • The difference between street art and graffiti lies in the beholder's perspective. Some associate graffiti and street art with gangs and violence, while others see it as a beautiful form of expression. “Well, I guess if you want to make a difference, street art is like composed and graffiti is tags, maybe? You know what I mean, there’s a lot of crossover. It’s not mutually exclusive, street art can be graffiti and graffiti can be street art,” Rhodes said.
  • Clarion Alley is so full of artwork it has even taken to the concrete ground. The messages on some murals speak of racism, feminism, economic inequality.
  • A common misconception surrounding street art, murals and graffiti is that it has no meaning. That the images are simply put there because one felt like it. Doug Rhodes strongly disagrees with this misconception. Rhodes also said, “I think most people think that maybe it’s free, you know, it costs the artist a lot of money and time to make it and it’s not just a free thing that the artist put up. I think that’s the biggest misconception, I mean, yes, some people think it’s graffiti or tags, but that’s not street art.”
  • 11 year San Francisco resident Ran Travis commented, “And it’s really nasty and being just learn how to lose a lot of their humanity out there and it’s associated with tagging and it turns me off.”
  • The above image shows how no piece of artwork is safe from tagging. “Tax the Rich” by Megan Wilson fell prey to tagging, bringing up the issue of legality and whether or not enough if being done to keep graffiti off the streets. Travis said, “I think the city is pretty liberal with it. Um, I think it should just be left alone because it’s just a charm of the city. It’s just great, it’s something to do and it’s not violent. It’s just great on every kind of level. And sometimes if you put a law against it it’s just going to cause more problems. Whatever they’ve got going is working, and in certain areas in can even be liberated a little more.”
  • Clarion Alley provides a surreal atmosphere with it’s artwork, tennis shoes hanging from power lines, it’s homeless residents playing music, and it’s sanctuary aspect. Stepping into the Alley sounds of the city begin to drown away and you immerse yourself in a small getaway full of powerful and in some cases moving artwork.
Print Friendly

Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.