The Cereal City Real Estate Connection: Railroad Boxcar Urban Art: Graff Artists, Taggers & Bombers

Railroad Boxcar Urban Art: Graff Artists, Taggers & Bombers

In September of 2010 I wrote a post called: ‘Railroad Boxcar Graffiti: Kaleidoscopes of a Moving Exhibition' which you can read, if you are interested.  It was about a subject that has long fascinated me; The graphic art that we all too commonly see on boxcars as they pass us by when we sit at a railroad crossing. 

Battle Creek Real EstateAs a Realtor, I am frequently on the road, and many times find myself sitting at a raBattle Creek Real Estateilroad crossing, despite my careful route planning. In Battle Creek, Michigan, trains and railroad crossings are a way of life, as freight cars and passenger trains travel between Detroit and Chicago. 

Through the magic and presence of Active Rain on the internet, I received a comment from an actual Graffiti Artist that offered insight into the clandestine world of the graffiti artist.  To begin, I was corrected on one point on my earlier post: They are never referred to as ‘Graffitists'.   

In fact here is what my contact, who will remain anonymous, had to tell me about the world of these artists:

"First I wanted to say that I appreciate you bringing some positive attention to urban art as it is usually criticized and called vandalism. Also, just a tip in case you come across any other artists, we are NEVER Battle Creek Real Estatecalled "graffitists". We are called "graffiti artists", "taggers"(though this is used if the artist has little skill or is new...also known as a "toy"), "writers", "Graff writers", or for those who get up all over (which is known as being All-City) we are called "bombers".Battle Creek Real Estate

There is a lot of time and money, energy and risk taken to throw up even the simplest pieces. Most don't understand or appreciate our art. We throw up our "tag" as a way of letting people know we exist, we comment on society, or we just like to bring color into a city that seems as gray as Battle Creek.

I have been a Graff writer for 17 years (I'm a 31 year old female) and I still bomb the trains every chance I get. People think we are delinquents but on the contrary, some of us contribute to society in many positive ways. I have 2 college degrees, own a business and am in leadership at church. I am no criminal. I am an artist and I thank you for acknowledging our talents and treasures."

I have long been fascinated with this artwork, and so forgive me if I lean toward not calling it vandalism, but instead refer to it as urban art.  For me it kindles a rebel spirit deep inside that reminds me that despite all the rules of our over-Battle Creek Real Estateregulated society at times, the free spirit in all of us will break out. 

I might even suggest that they, not unlike a kindred spirit to our founding fathers, who although they were under an oppressive government, found ways to express themselves to a populace and ultimately connect together a nation to unite for a common cause.  Although these artists are perhaps not asking anyone take up arms, they do comment on our times, and often send messages for us all to see that disseminates their thoughts and observations of our society from their perspective.   

I admire the work of these artists, because they seldom engage in vulgarity, or gang writing, and most often create a moving exhibition of original aesthetic artwork that travels across our nation.  I know there will people that disagree with me and pBattle Creek Real Estateerhaps even insinuate that I am in favor of vandalism, and rally on about the costs to the railroads, etc. 

One could also wage an equally compelling argument that railroads spread their own unwanted conditions of pollution, noise and halting of commerce as they pass through our cities, resulting in loss of revenue, in addition to all the benefits they offer in terms of transport. 

Boston Tea PartyYou might still call it misguided art, and illegal, but sometimes expressing 'liberty' means you break a few rules, not unlike sneaking into a Boston harbor and throwing tea into the bay wearing disguises. 

When you realize that these artists did not receive a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and are not subsidized with tax dollars to create these works of art under dangerous conditions at their own risk, it is hard not to flow them some admiration, even if it is just a trickle.  They spend their own money, time and energy, and assume all the risk as far as I can tell, and recieve no endorsements and the only brand they are selling is themselves, even if it is a cryptic message.  They seldom interfere with the train markings, and a lot of the work is quite incredible.

So, perhaps we can all for a moment lay the swords of this issue on the table, and sit back and admire the talent of these artists, and their creations, and perhaps even smile.  I know I do. 

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Comment balloon 6 commentsMichael Delaware • January 15 2011 11:51AM


Graffiti as an art form has often perplexed municipalities that like to control their environments. As a Director of Winnipeg's art council, I have had the privilege of working with many graffiti artists as well as participating in brainstorming of how we may include the 'free lancers' into our portfolio and heritage. Great Article!!

Posted by Sharon Lancaster, SRES, Realty Executives Okanagan (Sage Executive Group Real Estate) over 4 years ago

I call them criminals because that’s what they are. They are defacing private property and, when they do it to bridges, overpasses, etc., they are defacing public property, which my taxes then have to pay to clean up. THEY ARE NOTHING BUT CRIMINALS!

Posted by Not a real person over 4 years ago

Michael, I have to agree with Russel, some of these people have a great talent,  but they need to express and show that art in a legal form.  Defacing property, is just that, defacing property.  I really do wish that they would work on a canvass instead of someone elses property whether it is public or private.

Posted by Tony & Darcy Cannon, The C Team (Keller Williams Legacy) over 4 years ago

Michael - some of this work is absolutely beautiful, however, I am in disagreement with the artist. When she applies her art to someone elses property, without permission, it is vandalism, it is breaking the law, it is a crime (if only a misdemeanor), and therefore criminal.

Posted by Mike Saunders (Lanier Partners) over 4 years ago

Good points one and all.  Thanks for your comments!

Posted by Michael Delaware, REALTOR®, CRS (Troxel Realty Co. LLC) over 4 years ago

Would it be possible for me to get the name of your source so I can go paint her business windows with my art?  Clearly, she would have no problem with that.

Posted by Dale Terry over 4 years ago