Grafitti South St. Louis

Painting St. Mary’s: Grafitti, Responsibility and the Building Code

by Michael R. Allen

Badly-executed graffiti recently appeared on St. Mary's Infirmary.

The lonely red brick hospital that looms over the downtown railyards, St. Mary’s Infirmary, has withstood the troubles of time since its earliest section went up in 1887. The recent arrival of a giant white block cipher sprawled across the beautiful facade is an unfortunate attention-grabbing feature that would be horrific if it were not so badly done. The white-paint graffiti seems to be rolled on, and also seems to be an abortive attempt at a message to ScottTrade Center’s patrons. The ending letters could be “OSO”, as in “o so stupid.” The lazy pole and roller artist even dared to mar the front elevation of the eastern building at the hospital, designed by Barnett, Haynes & Barnett, architects of the great Cathedral on Lindell Boulevard.

Yet before one read my words as a screed against hapless philistines, I will note that I bow to the inevitable nature of urban graffiti. So long as there are surfaces unguarded, shall there be painted messages sent to the city. Most graffitti is easily removed, and once a vacant building is returned to productive life, never returns. The larger problem is one of abandonment of buildings as great as St. Mary’s. Yet the “broken window” theory deserves some consideration. A vacant building may gain special notoriety once adorned with a giant dab of hideous art. Special notoriety is never good for historic buildings.

The St. Mary's School of Nursing Building was tagged by "Ed Boxx" four years ago.

St. Mary’s Infirmary has already been hit by large-scale graffiti artists. In 2007, the elusive Ed Boxx (a.k.a Rex Ram) created a colorful mural over the entrance of the School of Nursing Building (1945). While devotees of the architectural firm P.M. O’Meara & Associates had to turn away, some of us found some delight in the admonition to St. Louis — delivered above a faithful rendering of our skyline, complete with crucifix — to “GET UP, GET GOD.”

The cross mimicked a stone cross atop the building, so it was no careless choice. Whether the paint should have been on the building at all is an ethical question that seems interrelated to the owner’s stewardship. Graffiti artists can leave real damage — cheap paint is not often one of them — when they leave windows open, break down secured doors, remove window sash and other acts of vandalism that may aid in the production of a work. All of that activity is an act of cultural vandalism. Those who put the white paint on the old hospital have left sash wide open that were shut before.

Yet the artists don’t bear the ultimate responsibility. Those who don’t break in are exploiting careless maintenance and ownership. Prosecution of young people with spray paint cans won’t do much to save buildings or prevent more graffiti. Enforcement of the building code will.

Events Grafitti

Panel: Graffiti, Art or Vandalism?

Flood wall, south riverfront.
Thursday, February 3
Fort Gondo
3151 Cherokee Street
Saint Louis, MO
Doors open at 7:00 PM
Discussion begins at 7:30 PM

Graffiti is as old as civilization itself, with examples found thousands of years ago in the pyramids of ancient Egypt and the Roman city of Pompeii. In contemporary America, any resident or visitor to a city — or even small towns–will see graffiti covering overpasses, abandoned structures and the sides of buildings.

On February 3rd, we will host a panel discussion that asks the following questions:

Is graffiti a valid form of artistic or political expression?
Does graffiti contribute to a sense that a neighborhood is blighted?
Can graffiti be a positive influence on city life, or is it alwaysdetrimental?
Who decides what is good graffiti, and what is bad?
Can different sides of the graffiti debate come to a consensus on itsvalidity?

Please come to City Affair and contribute your opinions and questions. The panel discussion will be followed by a question and answer session from the audience. Doors open at 7:00 PM, discussion begins at 7:30.

Panelists include:

Pete Wollaeger, local artis, inventor of the “eyeball”
Angelo Olegna, “Mayor of Cherokee Street”
And addition panelists to be announced.

Sponsored by City Affair.

Grafitti South St. Louis

So Clever!

How much trust fund allowance was wasted on this stupid slogan?

Abandonment Grafitti South St. Louis

Thoughts on Ed Boxx

I don’t know if prolific tagger Ed Boxx (also known as Rexx Ram or Red Foxx) is really dead, or if he faked his death as a prank.

I don’t know who Ed Boxx really is, and I don’t think that I know anyone who has met him in person.

I have no idea what is meant by “Get Up, Get God.”

I don’t know how I feel about the artist’s use of historic buildings as tablets for his work. Actually, I do. I don’t like it. But I don’t like it a whole lot less than I don’t like property owners letting their buildings deteriorate to the extent where they don’t even try to clean up grafitti.

One thing that I know for certain is that this Ed Boxx piece on the dormitory buidling of St. Mary’s Infirmary captures my attention and admiration. The skyline drawing, the colors, the imitation of the building’s rooftop cross in the work — this is pretty deliberate work. I’d rather not see this work on this building, but that’s not the root problem. Not at all.

Abandonment Grafitti South St. Louis

"Be Good to One Another"

by Michael R. Allen

This work by prolific graffiti creator Ed Boxx can be found down near the eastern terminus of Espenschied Street, by the former Carondelet Coke plant. Who can disagree with the message? Admittedly, few will see it but perhaps those who do need the instruction more than those who won’t. Such work raises questions: What does one make of positive messages inscribed on private property not being used and not likely to be reused? This “graf” graces the side of a damaged box trailer on the old St. Louis Ship property, which no doubt will be scrapped if its owner ever does anything more than let it sit and rust. Why not let one person’s scrap become another’s momentary canvas?

Art Downtown Grafitti People

Ed Box’s Orpheum Theater

by Michael R. Allen

The prolific graffiti tagger Ed Box(x) struck the Orpheum Theater downtown over the weekend, bringing his trademarks to an occupied building in the heart of the city. Observers first spotted the graffiti on Sunday. Among the painted items on the theater are a large cigarette, cat head and slogans such as “Forgive People” and “Roll Over Bay Toe Vin.” The theater is owned by the Roberts Brothers and its exterior has not exactly been kept in good repair lately. No word on when the exterior will be clean again.

Those who travel the streets of East St. Louis and north city know this work well. The work of Box(x) mars several landmarks that have long since slipped from our region’s middle-class consciousness. The downtown tag certainly raises the visibility of Ed Box(x) and hopefully will draw the attention of people who won’t see his other questionable endeavors.

Thomas Crone has more at 52nd City: Paging: ED BOXX, paging ED BOXX