Getting to the ‘art’ of the graffiti debate

Year 6 students at Sydenham High Junior School did a bit more than put pen to paper this week as they considered a hot topic that everyone has an opinion about: public graffiti.

After considering the question ‘Graffiti: Art or Crime’ and preparing arguments for and against incorporating graffiti in the redevelopment plans for Sydenham High Street as a literacy exercise, the girls got the opportunity to become graffiti artists for the day and look at the question from a hands-on level.

Professional graffiti artist Leon Henderson, from Seven Stars Agency, led the girls in a structured workshop to help them create their own Banksy-style artworks.  Their aim was to create four panels which would represent the key values of the Girls’ Day School Trust: putting girls first and encouraging each one to be the best she can be; being bold & brave to do things that challenge; being principled and working together to achieve their goals.

The final striking pieces went on display to parents and the rest of the school afterwards and will soon be hung in the school hall.

“We really believe in cross curricular learning wherever possible,” said Headteacher Kathryn Pullen.  “This is a wonderful example of how you can bring together work in an area like literacy to engage in some gritty debate along with a more practical demonstration of the topic.  The girls have worked as a team and produced something they can be really proud of and which will also hang in the school as a reminder of the GDST principles as well.”

But what was the girls’ final conclusion about graffiti?  The majority of the girls felt that graffiti could have a valid place in Sydenham if used wisely and appropriately but were more evenly divided on the bigger question of whether it was truly art.  Here are just some of their comments following the workshop:-

Alisa Gini:

“The graffiti workshop was the most amazing thing I have ever done!  Leon was such a good teacher at showing us how to spray in straight and curved lines.  I helped to create the ‘Aim, Aspire, Achieve’ board and I am so proud of the results.”

Frances Newe:

“Normally I strongly oppose graffiti but after being involved in the workshop, my feelings are wavering.  It has opened my eyes to the fact that graffiti is a very imaginative and creative way of expressing an opinion or idea.  I thoroughly enjoyed learning how graffiti is designed and brought to life.”

Mya Salau:

“I thoroughly enjoyed the graffiti workshop; it was absolutely amazing!  I helped to create the ‘Be Brave’ board and it was very impressive to see how Leon really made it stand out and look like a jungle.  It was the best workshop I have ever been involved in.”

Eva Osgerby:

“I loved the workshop!  The graffiti artist, Leon, was so incredibly passionate about graffiti and he was very talented.  I didn’t realise how many different affects you can create with spray cans of paint!”