Public Art Faces Growing Wave of Vandalism

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Jodi Hernandez
    Graffiti found spray-painted on the football field at Richmond's De Anza High School.

    Next time you head to the park, you may want to bring a pressure-hose.

    Public art installations have faced an increase in vandalism in the past year. With a yearly budget of just $15,000 for cleaning up graffiti, the San Francisco Arts Commission has seen incidents increasing from every few months to every month. They typically deplete their funds within just a few months, and then have to ask for help from other city departments. The Department of Public Works, in contrast, boasts $20 million for graffiti abatement.

    Golden Gate Park is a frequent target for taggers. It can cost around $5,000 to remove spray painting from a monument.

    There are 3,500 art installations around the City, so it's tricky to monitor every piece and ensure that they're all kept clean.

    In addition to scrubbing defaced art as quickly as possible, the City has launched two programs to discourage vandalism. The StreetSmARTS program installs large murals on blank walls, eliminating a tempting canvass for taggers. Most vandals want their little nicknames to be highly visible, so they'll avoid colorful murals.

    Another program, Where Art Lives, teaches kids that art requires permission. While that lesson may sound a bit horrifying, there's no argument that early intervention is needed to redirect kids' artistic interests into a pursuits that don't harm innocent bystanders.

    Muni, meanwhile, is struggling to address its own vandalism problems. After establishing a text-messaging tip-line for reporting graffiti, three months went by before anyone noticed that a technical blunder prevented the tips from being received.