The Rise of #Streetart in Bogota

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“People that don’t like graffiti, just don’t understand it,” explains Camilo Fidel López, the unofficial spokesman for Bogotá’s illegal street art scene. “When you understand graffiti, you see many things happening — it’s a way that people talk to each other.”

López is something of a rare beast — a lawyer with infinite charm and a rascally sense of humour. After getting rejected by Harvard, he jokes, he decided to further disappoint his father by promoting graffiti and street art in his home city. For the last eight years, he has worked with eight artists as part of independent collective Vertigo Graffiti, proselytising the illegal art form as one of Bogotá’s most powerful weapons in the fight to effect social change and narrow Colombia’s historically colossal gap between its wealthy and marginalised citizens.

As part of his work, López offers guided tours in various neighbourhoods and our first stop this morning is the cocktail bar of the W Hotel in the upscale Santa Barbara business district. This is where Vertigo Graffiti has created a huge floor-to-ceiling mural.

Showing a beautiful woman lounging on her back, her modesty protected by vines of graffiti, the work riffs on the idea of El Dorado, a mythical city made entirely of gold. The legend has several versions; most involve a Muisca tribe zipa (or chief) being covered with gold dust and diving into the Lake Guatavita while his attendants throw treasures — trinkets of gold, emeralds, and precious stones — into its waters to either impress a queen or appease the god that had taken her. Vertigo Graffiti reinterpreted the story by depicting Bogotá as the queen and graffiti as the city’s treasures — a tool of communication and opportunity for its people.

While one of the city’s more exclusive accommodations initially seems a strange place to start, the fact that the W asked local graffiti artists to decorate its exclusive nightspot demonstrates the genre’s increasing legitimacy in the Colombian capital.

As in many other cities around the world, graffiti here is a tool of personal creative expression and political commentary, and evokes mixed feelings in the local populace. But to understand the significance of urban art in contemporary Bogotá, you have to consider Colombia’s long history of violence, which only recently abated.

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Community Mourns #JesseRomero, the 14-Year Old Killed by LAPD for Alleged #Graffiti-Writing

Don't Shoot ,  by Bambi in Shoreditch, East London. Photo courtesy of  Dream Deferred .

Don't Shoot, by Bambi in Shoreditch, East London. Photo courtesy of Dream Deferred.

Police say the Boyle Heights boy allegedly fired at them while running away. But one witness says the gun went off when Romero tossed it against a fence during the pursuit.

At a press conference on August 10, 2016, Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Robert Arcos presented its account of the fatal officer-involved shooting of Jesse Reomero, a 14-year-old Mexican-American boy that Hollenbeck Gang Enforcement Detail officers were chasing for allegedly writing gang graffiti.

In a Los Angeles Times video of yesterday's press conference, Arcos said the incident began when the police received a radio report of vandalism suspects near Chicago Street and Cesar Chavez Avenue in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. After police arrived Romero ran. As officers approached the corner of Breed Street and Cesar Chavez, they allegedly heard a gun shot. When they turned the corner, one of the officers fatally shot Romero. Police presented a picture of an antiquated handgun at the conference.

Arcos said that a witness had seen Romero point a gun at police and pull the trigger. But another witness told the L.A. Times that she saw Romero throw the gun toward a fence as he ran and the gun went off.

Click here to read the full Colorlines article for the witness' account.


All I really need to know in life I learned from doing graffiti

Des Moines graffiti at the Des Moines Social Club. Photo by  Regan76  on Flickr, labeled for reuse.

Des Moines graffiti at the Des Moines Social Club. Photo by Regan76 on Flickr, labeled for reuse.

The Des Moines Register, February 26, 2016 by Michael Morain,

About 50 local high school students gathered downtown Friday for an unusual workshop that could have been called “All I really need to know in life I learned from doing graffiti.”

Start with an outline. Fill in the details. Fix the mistakes. Work together. Step back and admire the results.

“You can’t short-cut things. There’s a certain level of discipline to it,” the local graffiti artist who goes by Asphate told the group. “You’ve got to set yourself up for success.”

The graffiti project on a train car-size wall in the Des Moines Social Club courtyard was one of a handful of hands-on art activities at the third RunDSM Teen Summit. The two-day event organized by students in the Des Moines Public Schools’ Urban Leadership program encourages their peers to raise issues that concern them — racism, sexism, violence, social injustice — and then brainstorm solutions.

About 200 students from all the Des Moines high schools gathered for various town hall sessions titled “The N Word,” “White Privilege” and “Media Influence on Society,” among others. Afterward, they split up to put those ideas into spoken-word poetry, photography  — or spray paint. The mural took shape over the course of an hour, first with a basic outline, then with jumbo turquoise letters that spelled TEEN SUMMIT.

Jaihon McCaleb, a North High School sophomore, stepped away from the mural for a moment to explain that the activities teach participants how to “be free,” how to “be comfortable and be yourself.”

Roosevelt High School senior Zakariyah Hill went to a morning session titled “Confidence in Color: Knowing and Embracing Your Roots” and said she learned about “our history, our roots, and then how to express that through art.”

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