A Little Bit of Culture… In the Middle of the Night

Graffiti is something that actually has a little bit overlap in my life. The word “graffiti” has such a bad connotation I think. It’s labeled as vandalism and punishable by law. (By this same logic, I still think we should ban chewing gum… sidewalks are so gross with old gum plastered everywhere!)
Anyway… Graffiti is “bad.” But is it really? Back to how it’s had a place in my life. Rowing teams notoriously tag bridges and sea walls on locations they’ve rowed. This might be their home river (the Potomac has a couple of Georgetown Gs on some arches from ambitious classes) or the river where they train for spring break. Tampa, as a matter of fact, is a super popular spring break training location for crews from all over. The river is covered with collegiate tags. I love it, but a lot of people didn’t. (There was a big debate in Tampa on whether to remove the graffiti or not.)
I don’t see vandalism at all. I see a colorful representation that Tampa is a host for thousands of collegiate rowers from around the country every winter. I think it’s a tiny mark of history!
(Not going to lie… when I rowed on the Hillsborough River, it also provided me with some entertainment if I was bored in bow seat “setting the boat” during drills.)
The other night, I had fallen asleep. Garrett woke me up and convinced me to go downtown to see some famous graffiti artist that was in New York City. He tried explaining who it was, but I was half asleep and I’m not really sure why I even agreed to go. But we ended up in Chinatown (literally at 1:30am) to see the street art. I didn’t get it, but we weren’t alone so I figured it was a bigger deal than I realized. (Spoiler: It is a big deal.)
While answering emails yesterday, I watched the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop. I love documentaries, so I’m always game for one. Plus, I was super curious about this guy and what his deal was. It’s a REALLY good documentary. It’s a really cool look into the rise of street art and the exclusive culture that’s cultivated around it. You really get to see artists at work and see another artist break into the market (in an absurd way)… and get a real glimpse of who Banksy is.
Now I totally get the hype behind Banksy and it’s cool to have seen the first work in his 30 day series in New York City. You can follow the show on Banksy’s website if you’re not in New York City (or simply not into running around the city trying to find the next one…).
Do you think graffiti is art?

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I was a rower in Boston all through High School and rowed at GW for a bit, and I absolutely love seeing all of the different things each school will do! I'm sure the Charles has added some new tags in the 4 years I've been gone, I'll have to look the next time I'm on the river!


Summer Clark

Graffiti is most certainly art! A museum in LA recently had an exhibition featuring graffiti art but it was controversial as many people thought that bringing the graffiti off of the street and into a museum robbed the art of its context.



WOW!! You saw Banksy?!!? Amazing. As a former coxie, I know what you mean about boredom – and it IS art – we leave a piece of our teams and hearts behind, not just on the water but for the rest of the world to see. LOVE me some team spirit!


my guy loves street art so i have seen exit like 6 times. it's great because it's just this big joke but most people don't even know.

Kristie C.

I coxed in college and more recently in a club in DC and I think it's definitely symbolic seeing the "tags" from the schools.
Where I rowed in college there were large rocks on one side of the shore and the high school teams would spray paint a rock with the championship they won with the year. It's definitely a cool thing to see because you can only see it if you're out on the water.

Rachel Medlock

On a recent trip through Europe, I conducted a little Banksy/Space Invader/Jeff Aerosol hunt! So fun. Exit Through the Gift Shop kind of inspired it. Banksy is such a polarizing figure in the street art community (mostly because he is constantly called a sellout..) but I still love "discovering" his pieces.

While I was in London I actually participated in a street art class! Some local artists talked about their experience and taught us techniques with spray paint and stenciling. We did it on a canvas (not a building!) and took it home. It was such a fun experience, and I'm much more invested in the debate about graffiti now!

Suppose Anything Goes


It's so funny you posted this-the third one of his works for the month here in NYC is literally less than a block from my office! The best part is, I've been walking by it for two entire days without realizing it was Banksy and apparently no one else did until this morning, either. Hoping it's still around when I leave the office in a few hours-the one you snapped a pic of has already been painted over entirely, and his second was spray painted over!

PS-if you like really great street art, check out 5 Pointz in LIC. It is an incredible building.

Blonde in this City

Side of Sweet Mint

Love this little bit of culture. It would be cool if someone created a tour of all the popular "graffiti" in a town and the symbolism behind it.



I totally agree about gum stuck on everything- it's actually banned in Singapore!!

Julia D.

I took a Cultural Geography course that looked at the culture of graffiti and the implications it has for developing an area/youth culture. It was really cool. I totally think it is art, so long as it goes beyond the simple tagging that, in my opinion, is kind of ugly.

Jessica Joyce

Riding on the 7 Train to Manhattan is always a sight to see when passing through this neighborhood COVERED in graffiti. When I went to Naples, Italy, graffiti everywhere in train stations.
It's art. Banksy is an exceptional one. It's not even graffiti. He does art in public.

Your Friend, Jess