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Editor’s Note: “Open Art Gallery” is a bi-weekly column exploring the art behind graffiti on campus.

Graffiti is everywhere, isn’t it? Recently, there has been a marked increase in graffiti on campus. Going to class, I saw everything from activism-centric tags and posts to intricate chunky pieces and playful doodles.

Graffiti can be quite a controversial topic. Whether it’s illegality, content, or vandalism itself, people tend to have strong opinions on the subject.

Despite this, most of the students I spoke to had shared quite similar thoughts regarding the presence of graffiti on campus.

“I love graffiti when it’s epic and looks cool, but less so when it’s just like a word I can’t even read,” said freshman Tim Low.

The messages behind the graffiti were the driving force behind the opinions of the students.

“I think if UW had a space where they allowed or encouraged students to do street art, it would help control graffiti elsewhere and give students another more interactive public art space,” said student Jake Ochs. first year.

With this in mind, I set out to find the most prevalent examples of graffiti on campus. During my exploration, I found many tags, seemingly random squiggles, and playful little works of art; in the middle of the week I came across the largest collection of graffiti I had seen.

What I discovered was a fascinating series of graffiti hidden in an out of order garage near Padelford Hall. Since the pieces were made by different artists, there was great diversity in the styles and ideas presented. The layout of the garage allowed each room to have its own space without encroaching on other works of art, which created a rather impressive collection.

The graffiti ranged from large chunks taking up entire garage walls to smaller designs; various mediums such as markers, paint pens and spray paint were used for the designs.

Some of my favorite pieces have combined visuals and words to fully express their ideas. Many illustrated characters communicate ideas through text. My favorite shows two characters with a gramophone, while one character says through a speech bubble, “I’m afraid of tomorrow.”

Despite the different styles, illustrations, and artists, the garage graffiti still managed to come together to form a cohesive display reminiscent of an art gallery. The designs, styles and ideas – although different in their creation – coalesced in a way that gave the ‘exhibition’ an eerie, futuristic feel.

Being in this space made me think about what Ochs had said. What if UW had a space for students to express themselves, be activists, and create?

I think we can learn a lot from the freedom of expression that comes with graffiti. An opportunity to create in more socially acceptable (and legal) circumstances would open up accessibility to all, but it could also undermine the radical, activism-focused inspiration of the art form.

I know I would be happy to see various expressions appear in student art on campus; the benefits of graffiti tend to outweigh the negative effects. We can learn a lot through art and self-expression, whether it’s the state of our world or the mindset of others.

Contact contributing writer Maddie Keating at Twitter: @m_ddiie

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