Outward Bound

The cover of today's Denver Daily News places the headline "Mayor Targets Graffiti" over a story about the anti-graffiti summit scheduled to take place on Wednesday at the Denver Botanic Gardens. The article leads with the $2.5 million figure the city estimates it spends on graffiti cleanup, and includes several quotes from business owners who are plagued by tagging. The corresponding front page photo includes a caption reading, "Graffiti adorns the side of a building on Colfax Avenue."

Too bad the article fails to mention that the six-foot-tall mural in the picture was not spray-painted illegally. Rather, it was created with permission from the owner of the building, which is home to Bound By Design, at 1332 East Colfax. Moreover, the artwork has actually served to diminish tagging in the alleyway.

Phil, a tattoo artist with Bound By Design, says that a group of graffiti artists approached the inkers about six months ago and proposed the mural.

"They wanted to do something and we said, 'If you want to do something nice then go for it,'" Phil recalls. "And they said they'd also paint the name of our business for free. And we're like, "Cool.'" To make sure that passersby wouldn't mistake the piece for vandalism, the graffiti artists even wrote, "Painted with permission."

Since then, the wall has been free of the random tagging attacks that it had fallen victim to for so long. Though Daily News reporter Peter Marcus differentiates tagging — such as glass-window etching — from the more stylistic "graffiti art" murals, readers were left to assume that the pictured mural is an example of the public defacement the city is attempting to crack down on.

"This was something cool and good and they still try to make it seem illegal," Phil says. "That's bullshit." -- Jared Jacang Maher

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts