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A mural off 13th Ave painted by Josh Goff. Photo by Rebekah Lesko.

Artistic, creative and intriguing versus destructive, pointless and vandalism.

These are the two perspectives on graffiti. The vast range from extravagant murals to hateful racial slurs feed the debate on graffiti. The question lies between art and vandalism. It all just depends on who you ask.


For Josh Goff, graffiti is art.


The Regina artist started off as an illegal graffiti artist in his teen years, however a run-in with the police before he was 18 taught him to take up graffiti with permission and for a profit. Now 32, Goff turned his once colourful, mischievous hobby into a respectable, thriving business.


He admits he fights stereotypes when it comes to graffiti. “I’m trying to change that viewpoint and trying to show what’s really going on, instead of this media hype of it’s all gang-related, it’ll damage our city and makes it worthless. There is actually no statistics behind that,” said Goff.


However the City of Regina thinks graffiti is a problem.


By implementing a bylaw in 2008 titled “Let’s Wipe Out Graffiti,” the city's graffiti management program plans to eradicate graffiti. The belief is that graffiti harms Regina with obscene and offensive vandalism, costly repairs, damage to architecture, and that it creates fear of crime. The program offers graffiti prevention strategies, as well as removal options.


The program works closely with the Regina Police Service. Corporal Todd Jerome is the graffiti coordinator for the city.


Jerome explained there are a number of ways to prevent graffiti vandalism. “The quicker you remove graffiti the better it is. Once one tag has been put on, it just seems to snowball,” he said.


He investigates the graffiti mischiefs that come through the Regina Police Service.


“Most of the people that do graffiti are young offenders, and there are different ways to charge and proceed with charges after that,” said Jerome.


However Goff offers an explanation for that. “They’re gravitating toward graffiti art because they want to have an identity, they want to express themselves, they want to feel confident about what they’re doing and graffiti can be that tool. The city is not seeing it that way. They just see it, as it’s just a vandal, someone not thinking right.”


In addition, Goff believes the broken windows theory applies to the Queen City. “They associate an esthetic thing that’s uncomfortable for people, that that's what relates right to crime, but it’s not. Why crime happens is because of poverty and social system things that aren’t working,” Goff said.


In efforts to enhance Regina, Goff paints graffiti murals all around the city. During the annual Regina’s Cathedral Village Arts Festival, Goff can be found with other local graffiti artists creating images around the area, particularly on Brandee’s convenience store wall. Every year since 2002, artists have painted a new mural on Brandee’s wall, creating a local attraction.


“In the beginning years, it was a lot harder to convince people that graffiti was an art form. The Brandee’s wall was kind of the Mecca of Regina graffiti,” said Goff.


Pat Bohn, owner of Brandee’s for the past 25 years, believes the graffiti murals attached to her store have helped stop illegal graffiti tags. Before the murals, her store was a target to random tags, but since then the wall has been respected. She said the expense of covering up unwanted graffiti was a factor in welcoming the murals.


Bohn said no one has ever said anything negative about the murals and the idea is catching on in Regina. “Other people are starting to do it too. It’s giving character to the community,” she said.


Her son, Stephen Bohn, also explained how the graffiti murals go untouched, but open areas such as windows attract random illegal graffiti.


Because of graffiti murals such as Brandee’s and others around the city, Goff said “the perception of ‘it’s all vandalism’ started to go away.”

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