|Herschel Weisfeld's CorinthPark could be a model for DPD's new approach to graffiti art.|
Peering through the fence surrounding the otherwise shabby concrete loading area, you can see evidence of the space's other function. There's a 10-foot-tall peacock strutting with fishnets and stiletto heels, a person-sized styrofoam cup with pink liquid sloshing over the brim, a sickening green $5 bill, Honest Abe transformed into wild-eyed blue ogre. Nearly every inch of brick is covered in graffiti. Inside the warehouse, the coating of paint is, if anything, even more thorough.
Weisfeld can't pinpoint exactly when CorinthPark evolved into a haven for graffiti artists. It just kind of happened. He'd get a call from one kid asking if his group could spray, then another, and word soon spread through the graffiti community. Its a safe place, Weisfeld says, where kids can express themselves without fear of arrest. The only rules are that they have to respect one another's work and can't paint on the building's exterior walls. That's when the cops or city code inspectors are liable to stop by.
Oddly enough, though, the Dallas Police Department may soon try to replicate what's happened at CorinthPark at other areas in the city. For years, the department's approach to graffiti has been simple: find someone doing it, take them to jail. If the property damage was high enough, they'd be charged with a felony.
That approach isn't going away, but yesterday I was cold-called by a patrol sergeant, Elliot Forge, who told me that DPD has come to the realization that a lot of graffiti comes not from people who want to advertise their gang affiliation or do something illegal but who simply want to express themselves, to make art. Back around November, DPD leadership began mulling some sort of graffiti art program, and Forge, a soft-spoken SMU fine arts major-turned cop, was drafted to help develop it.
Of course, part of the lure of graffiti art is its guerilla nature, that the act of civil disobedience was part of the artwork. No doubt a segment of the graffiti community feels that way. But a lot of them just want to paint cool stuff. CorinthPark is proof of that. So is the stuff painted during the recent Trinity Wind Festival, which served as a sort of pilot of cooperation between the city and graffiti artists. And that waddling penguin with the bobby hat you see down by the river? Sgt. Forge did that.