Berkeley buildings defaced after graffiti event

Tagging on the wall of 1360 Fifth Street, home to solar testing lab PVEL. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Following an underground graffiti event that drew thousands of people to a vacant west Berkeley warehouse on Saturday, September 8, many buildings in the area were tagged leaving their owners and local residents dismayed.

The event, called “Special Delivery” and organized by Endless Canvas, took place in the Carbon Warehouse in the old Flint Ink building at 1350 Fourth Street between 6 p.m. and midnight on Saturday. Over the past few weeks, the interior of the 36,000 sq ft building has been covered with tags and street art by dozens of local graffiti artists. The warehouse, which has been vacant since 1999, has been a draw for graffiti artists for years, but this orchestrated “happening” was seen as a last gasp before the building is cleaned up and put to use by its owner, Alan Varela, owner of ProVen Management.

But on Sunday, the neighborhood also woke up to the sight of graffiti on many exterior walls of buildings across several blocks. The back walls of 1360 Fifth Street, which houses photovoltaic testing lab PVEL, and 1321 Fifth Street, home to Gingko Press, now sport dozens of multi-colored scrawls. There are tags on the Trumer Pils building at 1404 Fourth Street, on the Donkey & Goat winery, on the walls of expedition gear retailer SlingFin on the corner of Fifth and Gilman, as well as on many doorways of small businesses in the area. According to the Berkeley Police, they received reports from 13 victims of vandalism, and an investigation is under way.

Tagging on the walls of 1321 Fifth Street which appeared after a big graffiti event in the 1300 block of Fourth Street. Photo: Tracey Taylor

The 1300 block of Fifth Street is owned by Orton Development (whose owner Eddie Orton is known to be interested in buying downtown’s Post Office), and most of its buildings were hit. James Masden, who runs business development for Orton, said finding out about the tagging was a shock. “It was not a pleasant Sunday morning,” he said. He said the police have filed a report on the graffiti, and that he had been unaware of the Endless Canvas event. “If we had been, we would have been concerned about the consequences,” he said.

Masden has been in communication with Alan Varela, owner of the Flint Ink Building, who, according to the East Bay Express, gave his blessing to the “Special Delivery” event. Varela told Masden he will make sure the graffiti is cleaned up, starting tomorrow. Attempts to reach Varela and the Endless Canvas organizers had been unsuccessful at press time. Graffiti on private property is generally the responsibility of the property owner, while the city is responsible for public buildings.

[…View a photo gallery of the tagging on Fifth Street…]

Kathleen Fahey, who lives on Fifth Street at Camelia, said she was intrigued by the Endless Canvas endeavor, but feels the organizers may not have considered the potential ramifications of such an event.

“It’s a cool idea, inspiring,” she said. “But this is home to a lot of people and, once buildings get tagged like this, it tends to increase the chance of it happening again and again. A lot of the people who came here probably had never seen the neighborhood in daylight. They thought it was a ghost town. Conveying the message that because there is a vacant, dilapidated building that can be used for a ‘throw-away’ art project does not mean the whole area is free canvas for random acts of ‘art’.”

Tagging at 1350 Fifth Street which appeared after an underground graffiti event on Saturday night on Fourth Street. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Fahey said some owners had done a good job of restoring buildings in the area over the past few years. She describes the neighborhood, with its small businesses, including architects, a pre-school and artisans, as being “tidy” and expresses hope that the organizers and sponsors of the gathering take responsibility for the aftermath. “They should take ownership of it somehow. Even if they have no money, they should acknowledge it happened.”

Jared Brandt, owner of Donkey & Goat winery on Fifth Street, estimates 5,000 people came out to the “Special Delivery” opening which was flagged up in the local media and through social media. Berkeleyside pointed to it on our It List on Thursday, and updated the story with the event’s exact location which was kept secret until the day before.

According to Matt’s Writing blog which reported on the event, almost every inch inside the Flint Ink building has been decorated, including airshafts, windows, balconies, and staircases. Tags and artworks on show include a Vincent Van Gogh portrait, a mural featuring Fox News, and another work depicting the White House under attack by UFOs. Artists include Enor, Sad Could, Skul and DWT. Berkeley’s Ear Peace Records produced a live hip hop show for the gathering. Endless Canvas held a similar “Special Delivery” event in Portland, OR, last year.

According to the Endless Canvas website, the organization is “working on cleaning up” and hopes to have the exhibition of the interior of the Flint Building open next Sunday from 12 noon till 6pm.

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  • PragmaticProgressive

    Do you even know what that word means?  Since you can’t even spell it, I suppose not.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    If any of the taggers were minors, then Endless Canvas is certainly liable under Attractive Nuisance statutes.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Tiz, if the taggers were minors, couldn’t you make the case that the event was an “Attractive Nuisance” ?

  • JW

     From the organizer’s website:
    “ATTN WRITTERS: Thank you for not tagging the
    porta-potties, lights, gerenators, trucks or other rented equipment as
    Endless Canvas will be held liable and we want to be able to keep doing
    these events in the future.  Also, please don’t tag up the buildings
    across the street around the night of the opening so that the event
    doesn’t get shut down.  You know we’re pro-graffiti but please don’t
    side bust or blow up the spot.  THANK YOU!!!”

    Due diligence?

  • Charles_Siegel

     If you think it is “cool” to play with fire, you shouldn’t be surprised if someone gets burned.

  • Charles_Siegel

     Get over your “faux” artsiness and your adolescent rebelliousness.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Since you think “a little paint” is harmless, please post your address, so Berkeleyside readers can come and spray-paint your house.

  • Charles_Siegel

     I am not sure if this is serious or parody.   If it is serious, it shows that “kool art shows” like this one do convince ignorant adolescents that vandalism is legitimate and artistic.

    As the comment says, “I’m a artist. … I like 2 put my name up every where.”  (Notice the two errors in this brief quote alone.)

  • guest

     He or she is probably squatting somewhere.

  • represent510

     Tha proz style musta confuz u.  Tha artist say he respected tha town, yo. 

  • Charles_Siegel

    I think the key issue is that shows like this one and like the show at the Berkeley Art Museum legitimize a destructive activity.  The claim is that the taggers in the show are artists, but that doesn’t change the fact that lots of illiterate, untalented taggers also believe that they are artists and should do the same.

    To see what I mean, imagine that the director of BAM took a tour through remote parts of the United States and found that the Ku Klux Klan was doing racist graffiti that are more artistic than anything being done in the cities – colors, composition, and concepts that are much better than Basquiat. 

    Would the BAM put on a show of racist graffiti and scrawl the word “lynching” on the front of the museum to draw attention?  (The word “snitch” that they put there is a threat of violence by thugs, like the word “lynching.”)

    If a gallery in west Berkeley put on a show of racist graffiti, would it be surprised that it attracted racists from all over the Bay Area, and that after the show, the surrounding neighborhood was filled with racist graffiti that are not at all artistic?

    Would Berkeleyside run a review saying that the KKK exhibit brought “dignity” to the Art Museum?  Would the “faux” artistic respond to critics of the west Berkeley exhibit by saying that “Toulouse-Lautrec also used to scrawl graffiti on buildings”?

    Of course, no one would put on these exhibits or defend them, because society considers racial hate indefensible.   This is not a legal issue: I think any museum has a first-amendment right to put on an exhibit of racist graffiti.  It is an issue of commonly accepted social standards.

    Clearly, we don’t have an equally strong social standards saying that vandalizing someone else’s property is wrong – or saying that it is wrong for thugs to scrawl the word “snitch” to intimidate others who might report their crime.   If we did have these standards, it would reduce vandalism and thuggery – just as we have reduced racism since the 1950s, when it was still considered legitimate.

    I think the source of the problem is that many in the art world have never outgrown their adolescent rebelliousness – but don’t get me started about the contemporary art world. 

  • Residento

    Actually, I think the problem is not so much the art world as Berkeley itself, where a large segment of the population has never outgrown its adolescent rebelliousness. 

  • “But that doesn’t seem like what was scrawled on business exteriors” … to you.

    I’m not condoning vandalizing other people’s property. But art is art no matter where (legal or not) is it created.

    Bingo, I believe you missed the point. The point is, art is in the eye of the beholder, so the fact that you see one wall scribble as Basquiat and another as vandalism shows your narrow-mindedness.

  • Defaced is an opinion.  Plain walls certainly ARE NOT ART ~ so this, is an improvement. :)

  • Did Berkeleyside even do a story on the actual event??  It was awesome and attended by 2,000-4,000 people! 

  • We pointed our readers to the event on Thursday last week on our weekly weekend “It List”. We were unable to send a reporter to the event itself.

  • Authority

    Move to Singapore, then.
    Sounds like it would really suit you.

  • LarryLawyer

    Hmm. Yes, I concur.
    Let’s GET THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • BarneyBarrister

    I have also studied law, and I find your interpretation of the statute to be mistaken and wholly without merit.
    As is your face.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Including some members of the City Council.

  • Charles_Siegel

     It is a problem in the art world.  It is a problem in Berkeley.  Therefore, it is a double problem in Berkeley’s art world.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Marina’s comments are another proof that this sort of exhibit legitimizes destructive behavior.  Marina has said:
    –that she went to this exhibit.
    –because plain walls are not art, graffiti are an improvement.  (non sequitur)

    She obviously got that second idea from exhibits like this one. 

  • Anna

    It’s unfortunate that the writer of this story is so biased and misinformed. What a shame that a great project that took a 36,000 square foot building that has been vacant for 12 years and turned it into a work of art is being written about in such a poor light. It is obvious that the the writer did not even visit the this exhibit before writing this article; if they had then they would have seen how truly extraordinary it is. This article gives off the impression that these were a bunch of kids tagging up the inside of an old building when really these are artists that did full wall murals. I’ve never seen anything like it and I would be surprised if I ever do again. It is also unfortunate that a few people out of several thousand that attended the event did not listen to Endless Canvas when they said to not tag up the surrounding neighborhoods but I’m hoping that the people living in the community and reading this article will not let that taint their whole image. I really wish that the article had stated too that the event helped benefit Rock Paper Scissors, a free volunteer run art collective. Just my two cents, not at all speaking for Endless Canvas as I am not affiliated with them.If you have an open mind and did not get to see the building on Saturday you should check out this article to get an idea of what it was like: 

  • Charles_Siegel

    They put that notice on the Facebook event page because they thought there was a danger that the people their show attracted would tag in Berkeley. 

    Do you think the people who this show attracted were such good citizens that every single one of them would refrain from tagging after reading this notice? 

  • Charles_Siegel

     “But art is art no matter where … is it created.”

    “art is in the eye of the beholder”

    Think about it for a minute, and you will see you are contradicting yourself.

  • EBGuy

     Please exit through the gift shop…

  • ColbyChed

    Fortunately for real Americans, we don’t have a ridiculously oppressive and authoritarian political system like Singapore.
    The fact that you fantasize about living under one says a lot about you.

  • ColbyChed

    Nobody said it was legal.
    Getting your panties in a twist because 2 or 3 people out of a crowd of thousands painted on a wall is ridiculous and pathetic.
    Calm down.
    A small amount of spray paint on a wall is in no way comparable with “beatings” as you have tried to argue.
    Your argument is fallacious and childish.
    Example: ” I don’t condone the unicorns giving free back rubs that went on outside the event, but I take that any day over not having an amazing event like this. And, let’s face it, there were very few unicorns giving free back rubs that went on outside of the event relative to the numbers of people that attended.”
    It is entirely provincial to rage about a couple of minor property defacings as if it were the end of the world.

  • Gust

    That’s obviously not going to happen, Charles, since it would require that you tear yourself away from your angry keyboard ranting.

  • Anonymous

    When you eliminate music education in schools you get rap. When you eliminate art education you get this. Why is this a surprise to anyone?

  • Anonymous

     Works in the “medical field”.

  • guest

    Let me spell it out. 

    It costs money to remove spray paint from a building.  Sometimes it even costs a LOT of money to remove even a small amount. 

    When you spray paint a building, someone else has to pay to have the spraypaint removed. 

    The money the owner of the building spends to remove your little graffiti tag is money s/he could have spent on food, dental bills, their children’s education, clothing, gas, health care, or saved for retirement.

    The money the owner of the building spends to remove your little graffiti tag usually represents hours of their life that they spent working, hours that they cannot get back.

    When you tag a building, you are essentially robbing someone else of their time and resources.

    If you tag a building, you are not only a vandal, you are also, in a very real sense, a thief.  You are also an assh*le.

  • The Sharkey

    This is the artistic equivalent of pissing on the sidewalk.

  • ColbyChed

    When you cross the street slowly, you are essentially robbing someone of their time and resources.

    If you cross the street slowly, you are not only slow, you are also, in a very real sense, a thief. 

    You are also a murderer, because in a very, very real sense, you have murdered a portion of another person’s life span. 

    When you make ignorant fallacious arguments, you are also a murderer of reason and civil discourse. 

    When you replace letters of a word with asterisks, you are also a murderer of language and, in a very real sense, a hopeless, powerless, angry douchebag.

  • Maris

     Just like a Berkeley Provincial resident…sick

  • ColbyChed

    Looks like it’s time for grouchy old people to find something new to complain about:

    The new owner of the building said overall the art show was a success and that he hoped a few bad apples don’t spoil what he says was a positive art experience.”There were 3,000 people here and probably three of them were the ones who created the damage,” said Varela.Varela also said he has contacted his neighbors and told them he’ll pay to have all the graffiti removed.

  • samothrellim

    And then there’s the big “SNITCH” by Barry McGee on the side of the University Art Museum. A great show, raising the question at what point does graffiti become art?

  • Kelly

    Yes, ART! Too bad there are no pictures here of the art inside the building.  All this tagging has been cleaned up by the event hosts.  I’m really disappointed that the media outlets have chosen to mostly ignore the amazing accomplishments of this event and show.  You have something really great in your midst and you choose to ignore it.  What an amazing mix of ages and cultural groups this show hosted so peacefully.  A grass roots, free event, focused around art.  It was a truly great celebration!

  • Kelly

    They did!