While Manchester is a safe place to live, work and play, to many the sight of graffiti-covered buildings, highway walls and overpasses sure doesn’t give off that message.
The local graffiti isn’t the work of gangs marking their turf; it’s the work of kids who see themselves as artists or who are just trying to get some local fame. Nonetheless, it gives off the instant impression that the town might be a bit dangerous and that other things might be amiss.
What does it say about a state and city that it can’t even keep the highway walls clean-looking? What else might we be neglecting?
Cleaning this up will take a multi-pronged approach, and I think it should go without much debate that the state and city need to make this happen.
First, the state and city need to enact a cleaning program much like the mowing program to remove the graffiti on a regular schedule on public and private surfaces. If the city and state can regulate billboards and signage, then there should be no problem with them removing unwanted graffiti from privately owned structures with or without permission.
Second, the state and city should enact fines and recovery costs for those caught vandalizing public or private property and for the programs that keep the graffiti off structures. It is difficult to catch those doing the graffiti in the act, but additional cameras might help.
Third, building owners need to be proactive and notify the city and state of needed clean-up or do it themselves. In most cases, it’s just a 20-minute job with a little paint.
Fourth and finally, provide legal spaces for graffiti artists to work. As an art form, graffiti is both popular and interesting, and it could be used to attract more artists and younger tech types to the city. Graffiti isn’t bad — it just needs to be in appropriate places and placed in context. If we don’t give artists a place to do their work, they will continue to use the public and private structures as their illegal canvases.
This isn’t just a Manchester problem. It’s a state problem too. And the state needs to work with the city to improve the overall aesthetic of what visitors see going up Interstates 93 and 293. Why did Manchester spend all that money making Exit 5 off Interstate 293 that attractive if it was just going to allow $5 worth of paint to undermine it?
As seen in the June 5, 2014 issue of the Hippo.