To those involved with Project Street Art, it’s not graffiti: It’s art.
The local group’s members practice the urban art form of painting on brick, stone and other materials.
Although many outside of the group use spray paint to mark on unsuspecting buildings, Project Street Art seeks out permission from property owners to paint clean, appropriate images on outside walls or objects.
The group’s slogan is “art is not a crime,” and its goal is to showcase artistic talents and let the public appreciate urban art.
“We’re just trying to put ourselves out there as artists,” Hannibal’s Travis Gerard, 24, who goes by the nickname Apex, said. “It’s our way to bookmark our place in the world.”
So far, the group’s most prominent display is painted on a downtown building at the corner of Arch and Market streets. Formerly an apartment building, the structure now is vacant.
The father of Gerard’s friend and fellow group member, Seth Taylor, owns the building, and he allowed the pair to use its walls as their canvas. The duo painted Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse and stamped their work with the letters “PSA” about a week before Easter Sunday.
“I like doing cartoons, and Seth likes script work,” Gerard explained. “We don’t like to draw attention to ourselves, so we usually paint at night and just have a good time together while doing so.”
Sometimes when they paint, police become suspicious, but after explaining that they have permission to paint where they are, the police let them continue.
“As long as there are no drug references or profanity, it’s OK,” Gerard said. Since painting the famous Disney characters, the pair has received increased positive feedback from admirers.
However, after Hannibal City Council passed a new anti-graffiti ordinance in late March, Project Street Art is “playing it safe” and exercising caution about where to paint, Gerard said.
The anti-graffiti ordinance uses city funds to remove graffiti from public property, and monetary compensation will be given to people who provide information leading to the identity and apprehension of graffiti vandals.
“If any other artists out there want to do this too, instead of destroying someone else’s property, come talk to us,” Gerard said. “Stay legal, and stay safe. Hopefully, (Project Street Art) will cut down on local crime.”
Urban art has been gaining popularity.
About two years ago, Google’s Cultural Institute launched an online depository of more than 5,000 graffiti images as part of its Google Art Project, and many urban areas, including New York, have groups of street artists who legally paint in the city’s boroughs.