Street Art. Graffiti. Tagging. Whatever you call it, people often have a wide variety of opinions on it. Some may see it as an expression through art while others may simply see it as defacing property.

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In Kalamazoo, graffiti seems to be on the rise. In a recent thread from the Kalamazoo Reddit page, someone was complaining about the increase in graffiti spotted around downtown Kalamazoo.

The post read:

To the person tagging buildings downtown...As a fellow member of the LGBTQ+ community I get your frustrations, however can we stop tagging buildings all over downtown and maybe try some real activism? It’s kind of childish. And defacing someone’s property is never cute.

Now, there were number of comments both agreeing and disagreeing with the original poster. I'm not here to add to that debate.

However, one commenter by the name of u/Rocket_AG gave an interesting insight with their comment. They said,

There are towns and cities across the world that offer designated graffiti areas. Maybe Kalamazoo could implement something similar?

Which, to me, is genius! For my entire life I've heard towns and cities complain about graffiti. Clearly, complaining and painting over said graffiti isn't really slowing anyone down. So, why not give an open space for those that want to express their creativity or send powerful messages with their art?

If Kalamazoo should adopt a "designated graffiti zone", it would hardly be the first. There's a website called legal-walls.net which offers a worldwide map pointing to all "safe" graffiti zones. According to that map there are a couple of graffiti zones in Michigan. However, the closest to SW Michigan is in Jordan at a place called The Sweet Spot.

The Millennial Mirror also has a list of landmarks that have designated graffiti zones. And, overall, it seems like more and more cities are leaning towards keeping and even encouraging graffiti simply because it has turned into more of a tourist attraction than an eyesore. In fact, an article from governing.com detailed this slight shift back in 2018.

In it, the author said this about these new designated graffiti areas,

They are being sanctioned in the hope that managed graffiti in specially designated places is a way to cut down on the indiscriminate tagging of private and public property that marks gang territory and amounts to nothing more than vandalism.

Circling back to Kalamazoo and the original Reddit thread, another commenter, u/WorldlyPhilosopher, suggested there are designated graffiti zones in Kalamazoo:

I know Upjohn Park has a space for graffiti. Maybe Rockwell Park does too? Artists who don’t want to vandalize can call 311 and ask for designated spaces. If you are good, the city even hires artists from time to time to for murals. I like the Washington Square and ISK ones.

I did find an older article from Mlive.com which confirmed the plans for a designated space at Upjohn Park.

However, since we're still seeing graffiti downtown and since people are still talking about it online...perhaps not enough people know about the designated areas. Perhaps more need to be incorporated.

I, personally, don't mind the sight of graffiti. I love art of all kinds. I'm also not a private business owner and I can understand why they would be frustrated with an unrequested art piece being added to their property.

If you happen to be in the graffiti world and are looking to expand...the above comment from u/WorldlyPhiolospher has a point. Kalamazoo is expanding it's mural scene constantly. In fact there's an entire "Wall Crawl" you can follow. Check it out below:

And if you love graffiti...you're going to love this:

The Colorful Adventure of Finding Traverse City's Hippy Tree