'Artrageous' Campaign Tagged as Inappropriate by City Council

Advertisement for Artrageous in Labor Day circular (Photo: Mary Barker)

Labor Day advertisements for Aaron Brother's "Artrageous" graffiti art campaign may be the last after the Los Angeles City Council approved a resolution Wednesday asking Aaron Brothers to end promotions for urban art events that included giving away free graffiti started kits and selling a how-to graffiti book.

The resolution (.pdf) also renewed debate about graffiti policy in Los Angeles.

In addition to addressing the problem with Aaron Brothers, the council approved having the LAPD look at Oregon's regulations that control access to spray paint and materials associated with graffiti tagging that may be relevant to future policy in Los Angeles. There was also a request for an update on LAPD's new graffiti tracking program, a database that helps track, arrest and prosecute taggers in the city.

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Arnold Sachs stood up during public comment to defend the campaign, saying graffiti is also considered art, not just a form of vandalism.

"I have nothing against art, but when you are tagging walls and destroying public and private property I don't consider that art," said Councilman Dennis Zine.

About $7.1 million was spent on cleaning up graffiti in the city last year.

Also approved was a decision to request that the art supply store post a "prominent message about the ramifications and penalties of graffiti vandalism and the detrimental impact it has on our community." Details of what the message would say and where it would be posted were not mentioned.

The "live urban art events" drew criticism from city council members such as Zine who said he believes the program encouraged children to participate in an activity that was an act of vandalism and detrimental to the community. He and Mitchelle Englander wrote the resolution detailing problems with the "graffiti starter kits" that was seconded by Tom Labonde, Bernard Parks and Bill Rosendahl.

The company said their art events were meant to encourage art with proceeds being donated to the Boys and Girls Club of LA. A promotional video featured artist Scape Martinez demonstrating graffiti basics by drawing an Aaron Brothers logo on an outdoor wall.

Aaron Brothers cancelled their campaign events scheduled at stores around Los Angeles County for September after being contacted by Zine in August. Zine commended the store on their quick response to the issue and said the art store would still make a donation the Boys and Girls Club of LA.

Mary Beth Barker is a graduate student at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, which has partnered with KCET-TV to produce this blog about policy in Los Angeles.

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