By Derek Peebles
May 28, 2012
When I think of graffiti, the first thought that comes to mind is the opening credits of Fresh Prince of Bel Air:
In west Philadelphia born and raised
On the playground where I spent most of my days
Chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool
Turns out, there is more to the story. Often crafted by inner-city kids, graffiti is a powerful artistic expression. And thus, to think of graffiti in a negative light or to attach certain connotations would be unfair without first gathering the facts. That’s why iSPYCINCY spoke with Derek Peebles, Development Manager/Community Connector at Elementz Hip Hop Youth Arts Center in Over the Rhine.
For those unfamiliar, Elementz was founded in 2005 in Cincinnati’s urban core. The mission is to bring about social change through the engagement of inner-city youth in creating art as commentary. “We use principles of Asset Based Community Development, focusing on the gifts and assets of young people,” said Peebles. “At Elementz we engage and inspire youth, unleashing creativity and respect, engaging them in performance, community development and leadership through the values of Hip Hop and urban-inspired culture.”
In 2010, Elementz was selected by ArtsWave (formerly Fine Arts Fund) to participate in their multi-cultural partnership program. This provided three years of grants and intensive technical support. The programs offered include Hip Hop dance, Audio Recording & Production, DJing and graffiti-style Street Art. Sounds pretty sweet.
Peebles explained more about the particulars of Graffiti and Street Art. “Street Art is a term that can be used to include video projectors and sticker art in public places, whereas traditional graffiti artists have primarily used free-hand aerosol paints to produce their art.” The advertising industry has adopted traditional graffiti as a popular design method, which has led artists to finding careers as graphic artists for agencies.
Good thing Cincinnati is a hotbed for marketing/branding activity. “We have been aware for some time that popular cultural influences such as radio and TV have had an impact on the number of youth desiring to pursue the art forms of music and dance, in particular,” Peebles said. In a showing at the PAC Gallery, one graffiti artist was able to sell a canvass for over $3,000. Not bad.
Recently, Jeremy York, an Elementz visual instructor, conducted a community-building project at Xavier University teaching XU students to draw images that are within the genre of graffiti artistic expression.
“Visual art is a universal language. Visionaries see the unseen,” York said. “By communicating what we see in our minds we can predict the future and prepare others to follow. Can you imagine a better tomorrow? Destiny starts with an idea.”
Alright, where’s my spray can… I wanna give this a try.to top ↑