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Editorial: Graffiti -- when spray-painted stuff is vandalism

The recent graffito on the Stone Block heritage building. Photo by Sara Golling.

A Rossland landmark, a designated Heritage Building privately owned by a couple who have had it beautifully (and expensively, need we add?) restored, has been defaced by a graffito.  Of course, it’s not the only place around town where graffiti have appeared; but this seems a particularly offensive example – perhaps because I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the “Stone Block.”

Most of us know graffiti as spray-painted tags or designs that appear around town on various walls.  A video discusses whether graffiti constitute art or vandalism, and describes the stuff as being applied to “public property,” but most graffiti that have shown up in Rossland have defaced private, rather than public property –  that’s why I use the term “defaced.”  

When a private building is attacked with spray paint without the owner’s consent, we wonder:  was this just a foolish and thoughtless self-indulgent act, or did the perpetrator(s) intend it as a socio-political protest?  Is it intended as a metaphorical middle finger to the world, or some aspect of it?  Did they not think that the owner might feel attacked, or is that the very thing they wanted? Did they consider the cost of having paint removed from an old and fragile surface? Did they think or care at all about the heritage status of this building? 

I would be interested in the thought processes that led to this particular example.  Was it a personal grudge against the owners, or against a business that uses the building? Or does someone in possession of spray paint just not like Rossland, and want to damage something of historical interest and importance in our town?

The building is currently featured on the Facebook page of the Rossland Heritage Commission: this picture is accompanied by the text shown below it:

 “The Stone Block has been commonly known as the Bank of Toronto building but it's still not certain when this building was first used as a bank or how long it stayed there.
 According to the Bank of Toronto they established a branch in the mining town of Rossland in 1899 but they didn't appear on the Tax and Assessment Rolls of 1898 - 1900, as owning their own property. This could be because they were renting out a property when they first came to town.
Though the dates are unclear, the vault certainly stands as a proof of the building's use as a bank.”

The building is beautiful, and the owners are active volunteers in Rossland. Neither they nor their building deserve to be used as a target for someone’s rage or careless indifference.

There are a number of aspects of modern civilization that I too, would like to insult with the metaphorical middle finger – but I don’t think that painting something cryptic on someone else’s building will accomplish any positive alteration in the world.

Spray-painters – please find a less damaging and more communicative outlet for your opinions, territoriality, and creativity.