The problem though, is that a lot of art that litters trains, alleyways and bridges, is done illegally. Orest Katolyk of the City of London says something as simple as a tag can cost upwards of $250 to remove.
A London resident, who wished to remain anonymous (Case1), explains that a tag is just the beginning; “a tag is just a quick handstyle that you do with anything. You carve it with a rock, a marker, whatever… A throwup is a quick bubble letter that you can do hundreds of. They get your attention. They have colour and you [really] see them. A piece, are those big pretty things that you see, that are usually legal and take hours to do.”
Katolyck says pieces can cost thousands of dollars to cover, and even more so depending on the surface of the location, “if it’s done on brick, the cost goes up exponentially, because you don’t want to paint over the brick, you actually want to remove the brick, and that whole process takes much longer.
On top of costing the city thousands of dollars every year, the repercussions of getting caught doing illegal graffiti can be severe as well.
Case1 says he was caught after making the mistake of bragging about his work on social media, and was arrested and charged, “jail, probation, community service and fines. I can’t paint, can’t own paint, can’t own markers or chalk. My kid can’t own markers.”
Katolyck adds that it’s also very unfortunate for business owners because they end up being double victimized, “the bylaw states that if you have graffiti on your property, you must have it removed. The property owner has been victimized by the graffiti vandal, and then the city comes and tells them to remove it.”
He adds that they try and have a strong initial approach on education, rather than enforcement.
If street art, such as tagging and graffiti are something that interest you, there are a number of ways to get involved legally, including Art Fusion and the London Arts Council.