Monday, July 9, 2018

Free-Walls: What are they?

Could Free Walls Solve Tucson's Censorship Problem?
Tacoma Graffiti Garages, Tacoma, WA

by Felix Lawrence; USDAC, Pima County Outpost

Free-Walls are areas on public property where people can paint, post or draw 2-dimensional (flat) images & text.  Just as the City of Tucson provides public parking, tennis courts etc. it can also provide areas for people to create public art on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Many cities already have such walls; as you might expect, they are not free of controversy!  This article reviews several such sites. Ironically, one of the most famous Free-Walls was in communist China! 

Tucson Arts Brigade (TAB) is developing a proposal to open a Free-Wall for public art in Tucson; the proposal is currently in the early research stage, any suggestions you have would be appreciated.  We believe that the public is not just the passive audience for public art, we are also participants.  Our experiences with the Public Art Community Design Committee (PACD) have demonstrated that public art in Tucson has serious barriers to public participation; it is elitist.  PACD has censored the political content of our artwork; apparently it believes it needs to protect the people of Tucson from ideas.
 Olympia Free Wall, Olympia, Wa

The rough-draft proposal we have on the drafting board now looks like this:  

The City of Tucson would require artists to sign an agreement; this would release the City from all liability (both from personal injury, and damage to the artwork).

The City would then assign the artist an area to paint, or tell them to paint over the oldest existing artwork (artwork would be tagged with the date the artist received permission to paint).  There are many City-owned walls already built, visible & accessible from the street, so this wouldn’t cost the City anything, if it is willing to abstain from control & enforcement of rules.  Yes, the artwork may be ugly, offensive etc.  but at least it won’t last long.

The artists could, at their own expense, install video cameras to monitor the site; this info & the archives would be public & available via the internet.  Whatever proposal we put forward, inevitably the City will modify it.

The City’s main concern may be cost & liability (it may want them to be zero).  It may also may want to retain control of the content of the artwork; we must resist this as much as possible if that happens.  It is OK to prohibit obscenity, hate speech, etc. but political & religious content must be allowed if a Free-Wall is to be worthy of its name.

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