In theory, I’m not opposed to graffiti: in some cases, a decorated wall is more attractive than a bare one. I don’t know if Turn It Up! officially sanctioned the wall art that appears in the stairwell to their used CD shop, but I like the looks of this line-drawn girl listening through a tin-can phone to the music emanating from within. If graffiti looks like this, spray on.


Other specimens of downtown graffiti are more questionable. Yes, it might help business to have the word “Cigars” on the side of a shop that sells cigarettes, magazines, and the like…but surely the spray-can artist who scrawled this calling card could have made a more attractive pitch for her or his favorite carcinogen.

Whether or not I agree with what it says, at least the graffiti on the Beech Hill water tower is both colorful and interesting to look at; similarly, I have a certain fondness for the art in a can that is found on some funky cars and at least one dam here in southwest New Hampshire. In my opinion, a colorfully spray-painted car is more interesting than a monochromatic one, and I don’t see how a little paint is going to damage an otherwise monotonous-looking, purely functional expanse of concrete. Someone who devotes the time and effort to decorate an otherwise decrepit old vehicle is improving that vehicle, in my opinion, and although tagging something like a dam is technically illegal, I don’t personally see how some rebellious spray-paint is actually hurting anyone.

Defaced factory

But despite my normally lenient attitude toward graffiti, I do draw a line when it comes to defacing private property. The long-abandoned factory on Water Street here in Keene is among the latest buildings to sport an “ECC BK” sign, and I see this as part of a disturbing trend. This particular factory has been abandoned (and crumbling) ever since I moved to Keene in 2002, so it’s not like I bridle at the presumed “damage” caused by spray-paint vandals. This building has already had nearly all of its windows smashed, and its roof has already caved to the elements. If someone were to try to save this building, they’d have their work cut out for them, so an ever-changing selection of graffiti flowering on its facade doesn’t come as a surprise. Abandoned factories gather graffiti as naturally as stationary stones gather moss.

What disturbs me about this “ECC BK” tag is that I’ve seen it elsewhere in places I consider inappropriate. Although some might argue that well-placed graffiti can bear a political message, I fail to see the value of tagging a private home…

Defaced house

…or downtown mural.

Defaced mural

I don’t know who or what “ECC BK” refers to, but whatever message he, she, or it is trying to communicate via spray-paint, I’d argue there has to be a better method, means, and manner of expressing oneself than the defacement of private property. It seems at least one downtown business owner agrees with me, as the “ECC BK” tag next door to Athens Pizza on Main Street has been painted over.

Patched-over graffiti

Whatever message you’re trying to express, ECC BK, it seems some of us here in Keene are making a point not to listen.