Colorful Chaos: Graffiti in GreensboroMay 3rd, 2013 | By Charles Wood | Category: Entertainment, Feature, Sights
Wheat paste and sweat, stencils and cigarette burns. You can find them in train yards, risking their lives and toes for a prime tagging spot. Others can be found in back alleys, side streets, and behind dingy bars. Greensboro may not have the biggest graffiti scene in the world, or even in North Carolina, but you can find some surprising pieces. You just have to know where to look.
Eric Moss, who bar tends and books shows at New York Pizza on Tate Street, has been doing graffiti and street art in Greensboro for about eight years. One of the first pieces of street art Eric saw here was a stencil of a face with glasses painted on the ABC store at Friendly.
Nicole Given was a Art History Major at UNCG. Nicole has seen graffiti all over town and always wanted to try her hand at it. Once she found out that Eric Moss did street art, the two started collaborating.
Nicole works at Kinkos and that background supplied her with the access and knowledge necessary to making posters for wheat paste based street art. “Eric and I would come up with ideas” said Nicole, “and then we would stay up making glue all night.” Even with her poster making know-how, there were still troubles. “We ruined about three paintings before we finally got it right.”
Casey Cranford is a musician in the improv collective Pizza Jams which plays regularly at NYP. On street art, Cranford says “Street art and music have a symbiotic relationship, they play off one another. Music facilitates a place for street art to occur. Not only that, but the visual stimulation creates a better atmosphere for music and aids in community building.”
“The first time I saw live painters with music,” said Manui Tomlo, “I knew it was a scene I wanted to get into.” Tomlo is music promoter and student at UNCG. “In both live music and in street art you get a sense that it happened in a specific moment in time and it’s something you can never get back.”
People have been tagging the outside of trains and the interior of subways for as long as graffiti has been around. Sometimes these are simple, stylized signatures and other times, they are elaborate murals and explosions of color. The reason is pretty simple, what better way to get people to see your work than to paint it on a traveling canvas that crosses state lines?
“There’s always been a cross pollination in the cultures of train hopping and graffiti,” said Cranford. “People prone to do street art are probably travelers themselves.”
“Trains travel across country faster and further than some people can. It brings your art to other areas,” said Moss. Moss goes on to say, “Trains that have been tagged and painted on don’t rust as quickly. I love watching trains, theses psychedelic movements, pass by. Since they have two sides, you know you’re always missing something but never know what.”
Aspiring graffiti artists with an interest in tagging trains should be aware that it can be extremely dangerous. A friend of mine was tagging a train a few years back when it began to move unexpectedly and crushed his foot. He’s now missing all his toes except the big one on his left foot. If you have an accident in a train yard, you’ll be lucky if the only part of you that gets hurt are your toes.
When comparing Greensboro to bigger cities, Moss says, “The intelligence and creativity is here. However, in other cities, a bigger population is contributing to the scene.” There’s not much competitiveness in the Greensboro street art scene, according to Moss, because there’s not a lot of people doing it. Those that are contributing are doing so to help create a local canvas.
“When I was in Switzerland,” says Cranford, “there was beautiful graffiti everywhere with no effort to cover it up.” Such is not the case in Greensboro. “Most of our work was taken down
quickly,” adds Nicole, “the Bill Hicks piece we did was taken down in less than a day.”
Tomlo, originally from Asheville, said, “Here in Greensboro, they try to keep art contained, framed. I believe street art is beautifying.” Tomlo goes on to say, “The graffiti scene in Asheville is similar to here in Greensboro, but there’s more of it up there.”
Moss has a few tips few wannabe street artists:
- Survey your area.
- Don’t get a big head about it
- Don’t talk about it.
- If you’re doing it with a partner, make sure it’s someone you can trust.