Columbia Heights Murals Tagged With Graffiti


“Dear PoP,

I just walked past the gorgeous mural on Irving in between 11th and 13th and noticed that some jerkwad spray painted my favorite part! I’m so pissed!

Here’s wishing that 2010 is better than 2009.”

Very upsetting. It also appears that the mural at Bloombars on nearby 11th Street was also tagged, though already fixed.


From a Bloombars Facebook message:

“Some of you may have heard the unfortunate news that the mural on the side of our space was defaced by gang tags. It is sad bit of news that everyone does not share the same appreciation for something that brought so much joy to the neighborhood.

Your gut reaction might be anger and disappointment. But we ask that you set aside those feelings and see this as an opportunity to focus attention on one of the greatest challenges facing our community—young people choosing unproductive and destructive ways to spend their time.

It begs the question: Do you believe there are enough creative and productive alternatives for young people that support their growth and development?

If your answer was no, we ask that you explore ways that you can help lend some of your time to address this challenge—A challenge that will not go away with letters to elected officials or complaints to the police.

As you know, BloomBars has been working to be a part of the solution. Our most recent efforts include programming like Guitars not Guns and Poetry in the Morning. And with your support, ideas, and resources, we hope to offer many more opportunities for youth in 2010. In addition, we would love for our space to serve as a meeting place where you can engage your neighbors in a dialog about this and other challenges facing our community, so be on the lookout for an invitation to our first organized community forum.

It’s important to note that there are also several other organizations here in Columbia Heights whose footsteps we follow, like the Latin American Youth Center, and the Emergence Community Arts Collective. We hope you will also look for ways to support these fantastic organizations.

Back to the issue of the gang tags. I’ve spoken to Joel Bergner, the muralist, who has offered to fix the damage. We’re also bouncing around ideas to create a program to introduce the youth who have been doing the tagging to art of murals. But again, these efforts can only be successful with your support.”

16 Comment

  • I’m very grateful that the muralist has offered to fix the damage. &, yes, I believe there are enough creative and productive alternatives for young people to support their growth and development.

  • Defacing a mural or mosaic, whether created by an artist, or children’s group, that brightened up a dreary concrete wall, is pretty much the lowest of the low. It’s basically a big F-you to the entire community. I have no sympathy for the taggers, whose plain black scrawlings have zero artistic value. There are hundreds of more productive activities for young people to spend their time on in this city, most of them free.

  • That’s a gang tag? From which gang? Is it supposed to be a word? It doesn’t look like anything intelligible or identifiable to me.

  • This type of tagging has nothing to do with creative expression. If it did, it wouldn’t be over someone else’s art, and wouldn’t demonstrate such an obvious disinterest in aesthetics. It is one of two things, possibly both: marking of gang territory, and anti-social inclination and as a commentator above noted a desire to give a big F-U to those who care about the community. Creating more artistic opportunities might attract those who are inclined to do artistic graffiti on blank surfaces (and really, that sort of graffiti doesn’t bother me much to begin with), but will interest exactly zero percent of the type of people who engage in these types of tags. Unfortunately taggers are very difficult to catch, but when they are caught, they need to be taught a lesson via serious punishment that fits the crime — namely, MANY hours (like 50 or 100) of hard community service working on teams scrubbing out other people’s tagging. That is the only way to efficiently clean up tags at the same time as hopefully providing some future deterrent.

    Unfortunately, I really doubt the gang members responsible for the worst of the tagging are going to be engaged by the community opportunities available in CH. We are better off spending time and resources engaging as many kids, at a young and age as possible, for as much time as possible, in productive, fun activities, trying to fill up the many after-school and summer hours with attractive alternatives. Have to get to them young, once they are in the late teens they become MUCH more difficult to engage and much more cynical. Most importantly, we need to extend the school day and school year which would have a dual benefit of improving education and providing more structure for those kids whose families do not.

    • DC gangs in general don’t mark gang territory with graffiti. The gangs, mostly, are already identified as a territory and rarely are true boundaries enforced. In southeast entire neighborhoods fight each other from grandma and grandpa on down- these are called “neighborhood beefs.”

  • “It begs the question: Do you believe there are enough creative and productive alternatives for young people that support their growth and development?”

    Are you F*CKING KIDDING ME???!!! The Smithsonian is a 10 minute ride away.

    My kid has 12 afterschool programs to choose from at his school from soccer to chess to drama. The programs run until 6pm. That doesn’t even include the Sitar Art Center and the like.

    My biggest question is this, WHY DOES SOMEONE THINK A KID DID THIS? Why wouldn’t an adult spray graffiti? Why wouldn’t an adult be in a gang?

    “these efforts can only be successful with your support.””

    Are you kidding me? I once put together a GREAT donation program at my PTA and almost got into a fist fight about it because the potential recipients felt that what we were collecting for these families was racist because we “needed to just give them cash.”

  • It is really sad to see people tag on public art designed for the community. I also agree that the tagging is a big F-U to the community. But I applaud Bloombars efforts to promote art education and programs for at-risk youth.

    I don’t know much about the creator of this mural, but I do know that when murals are created with the buy-in of the community, graffiti ceases…at least in the area where the mural is. Chicago Transit, for example, spent literally millions erasing tagging in one subway station in a predominantly Latino community. What did they finally do about it? They invited the local youth to come in to the station and create art work on the walls and on the stairs. And, wouldn’t you know it, the tagging stopped.

    My point is that murals are wonderful on an aesthetic level, but they also need to be a product of the community, for the community. I don’t know how the mural was conceptualized and carried out, but murals are about more than aesthetics. They are about community.

    Hopefully a community solution can come out of this.

  • I hate the misuse of the term “begs the question.” “Raises” people, not “begs”.

  • The 900 block of T Street was also hit with these tags.

  • What is “Begging the Question?”
    “Begging the question” is a form of logical fallacy in which a statement or claim is assumed to be true without evidence other than the statement or claim itself. When one begs the question, the initial assumption of a statement is treated as already proven without any logic to show why the statement is true in the first place.

    A simple example would be “I think he is unattractive because he is ugly.” The adjective “ugly” does not explain why the subject is “unattractive” — they virtually amount to the same subjective meaning, and the proof is merely a restatement of the premise. The sentence has begged the question.

    What is it Not?
    To beg the question does not mean “to raise the question.” (e.g. “It begs the question, why is he so dumb?”) This is a common error of usage made by those who mistake the word “question” in the phrase to refer to a literal question. Sadly, the error has grown more and more common with time, such that even journalists, advertisers, and major mass media entities have fallen prey to “BTQ Abuse.”

    While descriptivists and other such laissez-faire linguists are content to allow the misconception to fall into the vernacular, it cannot be denied that logic and philosophy stand to lose an important conceptual label should the meaning of BTQ become diluted to the point that we must constantly distinguish between the traditional usage and the erroneous “modern” usage. This is why we fight.

  • 14th n’ Otis: I love stuff like that. Thanks very much for the comment.

  • “It begs the question: Do you believe there are enough creative and productive alternatives for young people that support their growth and development?”

    Don’t these kids go to school? Don’t they have homework to do? I’m sure they could participate in after school activities at their school. The problem is the community tolerates the crime. There is no personal responsibility on the part of the people committing the crimes or their parents. You will get more of the same nonsense until that changes.

  • Is this really the appropriate forum for a grammar discussion? I think it disrespects anyone who cares about artistic expression, community building and specifically these murals to miss the entire point of the post and to instead bite someone else’s ankles about their vocabulary usage.

    • When writing is done well (and often even when it isn’t), it’s as much a form as artistic expression as this mural. (Personally, I prefer the written word to the visual arts, but that’s just me.) Therefore, it actually seems like an entirely appropriate forum.

      I hate that it’s become petty and “ankle biting” to care about proper grammar and usage.

  • I am really humbled by BloomBars’ response.

    It makes me furious to see the lovely C.H. murals tagged. How are we going to clean that up?

  • I wondered how long this would take. I guess the tagger’s statement is, “This is what it’s REALLY like to live here, none of this happy Disney sh*t.” What other messages do you get from this?

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