Defacing art creates more than just headache for artists

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - It's a growing problem having an economic impact in the city.  Community leaders say murals being defaced doesn't just hurt the artists.

More than a year after utility boxes turned into a canvas of art, the fight to keep them clean and far away from vandals continues.

At least three utility boxes recently became defaced when graffiti was sprayed all over them.

Artist, Jorge Guillen takes pride in his work.

"To me, the electrical boxes represent urban art at their finest.  Urban art, at its best in the downtown area," he said.

Guillen was among the artists commissioned to create murals on utility boxes through out downtown Bakersfield, and just recently he found his work vandalized.

WATCH | Bakersfield teens helping improve downtown with murals on utility boxes 

"It's an obscenity.  Little kids say 'your electrical boxes are my favorite,' and I don't want that same little kid to see something bad like a bad word or something that doesn't belong.  This is just ugliness," he said.

Graffiti was sprayed on several murals, mostly Guillen's work.

"When your work is destroyed, it is the saddest day.  Normally, you're just crushed that someone would do that," said artist and art instructor at the Bakersfield Art Center, Charlotte White.

Arists have the option of leaving the clean up to the city anti-graffiti crews or just trying to recover the work using plastic coding, but often if they don't have the money, the graffiti stays.

"It destroys a neighborhood. It lowers the quality of the neighborhood.  Any neighborhood that has lots of graffiti in it, or art work that is being defaced, murals that are being defaced, the merchant who paid to have that mural painted is out the money, the artist has to go back and try to re-create it whatever it is. The whole community suffers," said White.

Businesses dealing with graffiti also have the option of sponsoring an artists through independent art galleries or the Arts Council of Kern to help cover up the mess.

"Being angry about it and not doing anything, complaining and jumping on the key board ain't going to do nothing. So, the right thing is to go and clean up as much as I can and as all things fail, re-paint," said Guillen.

According to police, people caught destroying art or spraying graffiti may face hefty fines and even jail time.


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