Altoids has announced a program wherein they will sponsor and recognize three graffiti artists (DUG1, GESO, and GRAY) by giving them prominent public canvases to display their work (billboards) in the City of San Francisco.
The following email was sent to Altoids by a NoGraf member in Portland, Oregon:
"I am writing to you with concerns over your recent campaign involving urban art. I am a graffiti expert and a director of NoGraf a non-profit agency devoted to the abatement of vandalism. I am constantly being approached by citizens who are frustrated with the vandalism they are constantly subjected to. I wonder if you realize that the United States spends over $15 Billion a year on graffiti removal. There are tens of thousands of volunteers that devote time and effort to remove this unauthorized "artwork" and keep their cities clean.
It is frustrating after making this effort to see businesses glorify vandalism as a way to sell their products. I believe that many businesses forget that graffiti vandalism is a crime. How many other crimes do we glorify in advertising. Maybe your next campaign should honor the shoplifter. You could show a shoplifter stealing your mints.
I am not saying that your billboards are vandalism. The difference between graffiti and vandalism is permission. Obviously you have given these "artists" permission. I will even admit that the "artists" you chose are fairly talented. However they developed that talent at the expense of their communities. Through years of unauthorized vandalism they have honed their skills. To now give them such a prestigious assignment not only validates their efforts but also encourages other aspiring vandals to continue.
I hope that you will consider my comments. If you have any other questions please feel free to contact me."