"Painting the Town Red"
Sunday, July 27, 2014
by Jessica Kane
Rapid City has always had its share of graffiti. In recent years, much of this has been channeled into "Art Alley," with varying degrees of success. Sometimes it's more art, other times more mess. Although it's considered disrespectful to tag over a piece, this is happening more often now as the hierarchy breaks down and territories reorganize in the wake of emigration from the city. Public policies relating to superpowers have inspired the departure of superheroes and supervillains alike, with a destabilizing effect throughout the layers of society. In particular, the township has such a big problem with signs being changed from "Rapid City" to "Rabid City" that official cleanup crews have been unable to keep up.
But there are new players in town. Where there used to be a relatively consistent set of supervillains and other high-profile criminals operating in Rapid City and nearby parts of South Dakota, there is now an ever-changing pool of visitors who come to party for a while and then leave. This makes it difficult to establish any kind of stable subculture in the area.
The biggest change seems to date from the appearance of this mural under an overpass. It depicts a red sea monster spelling out "YES" with its tentacles. It is widely referred to as the "Permission Wall," even though that phrase normally refers to a space authorized for graffiti.
Graffiti artists throughout Rapid City -- many of them probably visitors -- have taken this as permission to paint the town red. Literally, the color red has become a prominent shade in local street art. It's so popular that stores in town have difficulty keeping red paint in stock, especially spray paint and porch paint.
Among the first forms to appear was simply washing a whole wall in red as fast as possible. This creates a clean canvas for other artists to come along behind and add their own message in a contrasting color. White on red and black on red are among the most common.
More elaborate pieces began to appear as some graffiti artists collaborated on purpose. One would create the canvas, and another would follow to decorate it with large-scale artwork. Surprisingly for such a landlocked locale, many of these feature sea life. Some residents have expressed discomfort with the unnatural color scheme of aquatic scenes rendered in red instead of blue.
The most dramatic form of graffiti doesn't use paint at all. On several occasions, unknown soups have used powers like Color Control or Illusion to make everything in an area red. So far, the effects have all faded within a few hours, including those unfortunate people who got caught within the area of effect. Citizens worry, however, that a future incident of this type could produce permanent effects.
Graffiti has long sparked a heated debate between those who see it as public art and those who see it as vandalism. Street art, especially in its illegal forms, remains primarily the domain of those excluded from more conventional venues such as art galleries and municipal commissions. Denied a place for officially sanctioned expression, they often resort to taking a platform by force in order to air their views. Graffiti gives a voice to the voiceless, and it makes the invisible become visible.
So where does this leave us with regard to superpowers? They can be incredibly potent and conspicuous. Yet many people with special abilities choose to hide them due to discrimination. Wherever we see dispossessed people, we see graffiti. Perhaps the way to reduce this kind of clandestine communication is to open up the official channels. Let's get the red out, Rapid City!
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"Painting the Town Red" features graffiti. Removing it costs a city anywhere from $100,000 to around $3 million, although one estimate went as high as $30 million. Since local-Rapid City has had a brisk graffiti problem, Terramagne-Rabid City probably spent around $1 million prior to driving out all their soups -- after which the cost probably doubled or tripled. So that's up to .3 tanner in financial costs.
Read about "Art Alley" in L-Rapid City.