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Steve Chiotakis: There are so many opinions about this deep recession, and just as many ideas about how the government should go about fighting it. Even from New York graffiti artists. But some business owners in the Big Apple’s SoHo neighborhood would rather those artists keep their thoughts to themselves. Sally Herships reports.
Sally Herships: Martin Cappa is a real estate agent who’s been noticing the recession-oriented graffiti in Soho.
Martin Cappa: I saw “where’s my bailout.” Then I saw one, you know, “when am I gonna get my money,” or “I’m homeless.” So the graffiti’s more sophisticated, if that makes sense.
Just to be clear here, we’re not talking about tagging, which is spraying painting names or gang symbols over and over. This is street art.
Cappa says when he was a kid, he did some tagging himself. But now he’s reformed. He says graffiti can harm sales and property values.
Cappa: It affects everyone — store owners, small businesses, we’re all working to try to stay afloat here.
But graffiti can also be big business. Works by the British artist Banksy pull in tens of thousands of pounds.
Oded Halahmy is an Iraqi artist and gallery owner in Soho. He says he loves the freedom available to artists in America, but he says graffiti has a place.
Oded Halahmy: You can make flyer and hand it to me and do t-shirt, as a creative protest. But paint it on the wall of the gallery, not on the wall of our building.
A few blocks away, on Broadway a graffiti artists who calls himself NY Ceve is spray painting hats for tourists. Nearby, Anthony Vazquez and a couple other artists have a table set up selling graffiti — on canvas. I ask Vazquez what he says to people who are angry when their property gets tagged.
Anthony Vazquez: If you don’t like noise, if you don’t want people to honk their horns then you shouldn’t be here. It’s those little imperfections that like, make it beautiful.
As unpopular as graffiti is with local business owners, there is a demand for it.
Sarah Martineau is a fan. There’s a stencil outside the nearby salon where she works.
Sarah Martineau: It says “sex, drugs, and rock and roll.” And that is the kind of graffiti that I support.
But Martineau’s not responsible for cleaning it up.
Martineau: I’m a renter. It’s not my problem.
In New York, I’m Sally Herships for Marketplace.
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