By MALIK NICKENS, IndyKids Staff
From curving and flowing letters to beautiful murals and colorful characters, graffiti is a form of street art that uses the entire world as a canvas. Often graffiti is viewed as vandalism, because the act of drawing on, or tagging, a wall without permission is illegal. “Legal havens,” where graffiti and street artists are allowed to paint, are slowly disappearing because of limited space and city development.
One such haven* was whitewashed (covered in white paint) on November 18, 2013, to prepare for its demolition. 5Pointz in Long Island City, Queens, is a five-story industrial warehouse that has been drawing visitors from all over the world for over a decade. In 2002, Jonathan Cohen approached the warehouse’s owner, Jerry Wolkoff, requesting to use it as a space for graffiti artists. With Wolkoff’s permission, Cohen, a graffiti artist known as Meres One, has overseen 5Pointz. His project has become a cultural icon, attracting street artists from all over the world, including Banksy, a British artist whose politically-themed stencil art sells for millions of dollars.
The fight to save 5Pointz has been a tough one. Despite strong support from the local community and the fact that 5Pointz has become a tourist attraction, there has been no positive support from the city. The whitewashing was done at night, and Wolkoff has stated that by doing so he saved the artists from having to see their artwork destroyed when the building is torn down to make room for two new high rise luxury apartment buildings.
Supporters of 5Pointz gathered the morning of November 19, after news of the defacing spread. Dazed, confused and many in tears, they mourned the loss of a haven for street artists.
“Heartbreaking,” remarked a graffiti artist known as Just. “This is not just about graffiti — it’s about the unity of people who met here from all over the world.”
*Haven: a place that is safe