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Graffiti group brings art and culture to Springfield


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Since I was little, I’ve loved watching trains chug by. The slower the train is moving the better. It gives me a better look at the, often beautiful, artwork that graces the sides of the cars.

Graffiti is a form of art that has the world divided. Many think of it as an amazing talent that uses untraditional canvas to convey anything from social dissent to gang relations to pure happiness. Others find it as distasteful and vandalism whose perpetrators should be put in jail. Others, still, say, “Look at that,” and keep walking.

I think graffiti, or street art as it is deemed by those who enjoy seeing it, can be amazingly stunning and meaningful. I’m not talking about the scribblings of young kids who think it’s fun to deface property; Justin Bieber, for example. I mean real works of art.

For example, I am a huge fan of the artist known only as Banksy. He prefers to remain an anonymous legend, letting his artwork speak for itself. Although, I’m sure many interpret his anonymity as being a tactic for getting away with technically vandalizing both public and private property.

His images add imagination and, often, social commentary to normally boring city scenes. However, he admits his popularity creates a kind of battle in himself. He said in an interview with the Village Voice (New York), “commercial success is a mark of failure for a graffiti artist.”

For a few graffiti artists in Springfield, though, it is a different story. Lately, many of the commuter students at UIS may have noticed the new artwork being done on the side of Clay’s Popeye’s Barbeque on S. Grand Ave.

A newly formed graffiti group, Total Visual Renewal, is almost finished with the mural featuring the popular cartoon character sporting the same name as the restaurant.

I love this mural. It’s different from those recently painted in downtown. The Popeye mural showcases the character of the south side of Springfield, full of life and color. I think another reason I like it so much is because Popeye has been made to reflect the local culture.

The Popeye mural isn’t the first mural Total Visual Renewal was commissioned for in Springfield. Recently, they completed a full mural on the back wall of D&J’s Café on Laurel.

In addition to Total Visual Renewal’s work, Springfield is home to many other murals. There are several in the downtown area but I’m a big fan of the Penny Lane and Happy Daze buildings. The front of these buildings are covered in different scenes that reflect the stores’ personalities.

The Popeye mural is by far my favorite, though. It pays homage to what I consider true graffiti art. Giant block lettering runs across the top of the building. The same type of lettering I tried for years to prefect on notes, desks, and homework assignments. Total Visual Renewal puts my adolescent doodling to shame.

This street art is a great way to inject a little color into an otherwise bland world. The thing that I like the most about Total Visual Renewal’s work is that they are turning their childhood delinquency into a career because they’re works are commissioned by the business owners.

More owners should take Clay’s Popeye’s Barbeque’s lead. The world would be a more colorful, beautiful and interesting place.

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Award winning, student run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield..
Graffiti group brings art and culture to Springfield