Taggers bomb island surfaces
Graffiti artists looking to make a mark on their environment have reached out-of-control status on Salt Spring, where tags have been applied to public property from Ganges village to opposite ends of the island.
Salt Spring Parks and Rec manager Dan Ovington said parks maintenance staff are at their wits’ end after constantly removing graffiti from Centennial Park infrastructure over the past month or two.
“This is happening daily. We’d go and remove the tags inside the park washroom and then we’d go back the next day and it had been tagged again,” Ovington said.
What started as tagging inside of the washroom has now spread to giant-sized letters covering that building’s exterior wall. The “Snop” and “Saf” tags found there appear to be competing for space along with “Bonk,” whose name most recently defaced a butterfly mural painted by Amarah Gabriel near Island Savings. Snop/Saf meanwhile hit numerous Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure road signs just north of Central last week. Graffiti has also covered trash cans at Portlock Park and the wall of a downtown bus shelter.
Ganges resident Sam FitzZaland posted a public message to the taggers this week condemning the damage to the butterfly mural and to a rammed earth planter that he and other community members made for Salt Spring Cooperative Preschool.
“The preschool is meant to be a place that fosters community spirit. I imagine the parents and preschool children feel less pride in the preschool now that it is tagged. The disrespect shown by this vandalism brings down the school as well as the community,” FitzZaland said.
Both FitzZaland and Ovington point to the Kanaka skatepark as a place where graffiti art is permitted. PARC staff don’t remove artwork or tagging there unless there it is something offensive, Ovington said.
“Take the time to plan out the piece and to execute it so that it looks good,” FitzZaland suggested.
While Gabriel’s mural is a victim of the recent spree, graffiti artists traditionally respect other people’s artwork. Project for Public Spaces is a nonprofit organization based in New York dedicated to creating and sustaining public places that build communities. They list sponsoring murals as one possible graffiti deterrent.
“Research suggests that painting multi-coloured designs or murals on surfaces will discourage graffiti, since tagging is more difficult,” the organization explains on its website. “Such mural projects, especially when they involve local artists and high school students, have solved many graffiti problems. Furthermore, changing the mural a few times a year draws more community involvement.”
Artwork for the exterior of the Centennial Park washroom was part of the original design plan, and $10,000 was reserved in the construction budget for that purpose. PARC commissioners reconsidered the idea after the building was completed in 2019 and decided art was no longer a priority.
Ovington said Parks and Rec did consider involving community artists to create something inside the washroom after tagging started to occur there and the idea for artwork in general may still come back to the commission. Staff are additionally in the midst of investigating lighting and camera options for crime prevention in the park.
“We’ve spent a lot of time and dollars trying to revive Centennial Park and we’ve done some long-needed upgrades, so it’s disappointing to see it defaced,” Ovington said.
Salt Spring RCMP detachment head Sgt. Clive Seabrook said police have an active investigation open. They are seeking help from local business owners who may have security camera footage, and from witnesses who can share any information.
Anyone who can help should contact the local detachment office at 250-537-5555.