An increasing amount of graffiti on buildings around campus has officials questioning whether to leave it or spend the money to clean it up.
Images of celebrities have been showing up on various buildings around campus. Usually in black and white, always without words, and never any larger than 2 feet by 2 feet, some of the more recognizable images include Sean Connery on a barrier outside of Rogers Hall, Buddy Holly on Penobscot Hall, Bill Murray on Colvin Hall, and The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album cover on Barrows Hall. Graffiti appears on seven buildings and is usually in places that are right next to walkways or a road.
One artist, who goes by J-Rock, was adamant that the stencils are not about being a menace, but about freedom of expression.
“I don’t think it’s a big deal at all,” said J-Rock, who would only confirm he is a resident on campus. “I’m just going out, doing my thing. It’s all just trying to make people be like ‘Yeah, I know who that is. That’s pretty cool.’”
J-Rock added that people should not mistake what is being done as a way of “marking territory.”
“Like I said, it’s about expression. If someone else wants to come out and start putting their own stuff up, feel free, but don’t go out and put up something dumb, like your name. Don’t do something people won’t look at and say, ‘Why was that done?’ Do something that will make people say ‘Hey, I know what that is, that’s legit.’”
J-Rock cuts out his stencils in paperboard by tracing a picture with an X-acto knife, then spray paints through the stencils. He said that buildings are his choice because they have the most blank space.
Public Safety officials were not impressed with the artwork. Chief Noel March explained the punishments for anyone caught spray painting.
“The cost of the damage depends upon the cost of repair or replacement,” March said. “If the damage stays below $2,000, the offense is a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or one year in jail, plus restitution costs. Damage in excess of $2,000 is a felony and the penalty will be determined by the judge, but can exceed a $1,000 fine and/or one year in jail, plus restitution costs.”
March said the former crime is known as “Criminal mischief” in Maine, while the felony is “Aggravated criminal mischief.”
Anita Wihry, director of Facilities Management, said that removing the graffiti was not on the top of her list.
“We typically do not respond to graffiti unless it is requested of us,” Wihry said. “So far, we haven’t had any requests to have it removed, so it stays.”
J-Rock, who has never been asked to remove work, was indifferent as to whether his spray painting is cleaned up.
“Y’know, they can take it down as much as they want, there’s really nothing I can do. But they can’t stop me from putting it back up.”