Graffiti: Art or Vandalism

Rachel Kuntz, Writer

I posted a poll on social media asking if people consider graffiti to be art or vandalism. Of the twenty-six people who responded, twenty-one people said they consider graffiti art. The other five people said they consider it vandalism.

People said it depended on the content of the art by the graffiti artist. If the art is inappropriate and disrespectful, then it should be considered vandalism and not art. But if the graffiti is beautiful and had a wow factor, then most people liked it. Some graffiti is done for a reason, like the anti-meth mural Cole Kerby did on 812 Abbey St, Helena, MT 59601 on Billings Avenue. He had permission from the Helena Housing Authority. It has a great message about the dangers of meth and includes the words, “Not even once …Not in our house!”


The placement and content of the graffiti is very important when determining if it is vandalism or not. Ryan “ARCY” Christenson   got $5,000 for painting the 40-foot tall miner mural on the Jackson Street parking garage’s north side. Of course, when the artist has permission or is paid for their work, the graffiti cannot be considered vandalism.

However, when people see graffiti on trains, they typically consider it vandalism, especially because trains are a target for tagging, where the person signs their name or leaves a kind of signature. This form of graffiti is simple, rarely improves the visual enjoyment of the space, and is the result of trespassing. 

Sometimes, if graffiti is visually beautiful or interesting it is considered art even if the artist didn’t have permission to create it. However, this is subjective since what might be beautiful to one person could be ugly to another. It depends on people’s interpretation. What one person considers art, another considers a crime.

Graffiti on a bridge near Whitefish, Montana.











Graffiti on a bridge near Whitefish, Montana.










Print Friendly, PDF & Email