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Published August, 2009

Abstract: This study addressed a problem of flagging motivation in the subject of Art
exhibited by some students in an “underperforming” inner-city middle school in Bronx,
NY. Looking at students’ existing knowledge and perceptions of art, the study compared
lessons which incorporated Graffiti Art to lessons based on traditional art instruction
gauging interest, participation, change in behavioral demeanor and student’s motivation
to learn and participate. Of art subgenres that students expressed pre-existing interest and
knowledge of, Graffiti Art was more prevalent then cartooning, comic art, fashion or
digital art, likely because of the art style’s unique origins in The Bronx and the
continuing interest shown by the greater community as demonstrated by the prevalence of
Graffiti Art murals in this and adjacent neighborhoods, and the pervasive cultural “hip-
hop” traditions which pass awareness of the art style to this age group by previous
generations. The study used observation, assessment of student work, interviews, class
discussion and surveys to evaluate student interest, concentrating on those students in
each class who may or may not participate, dependent on subject matter. Results indicate
Graffiti Art was successful in boosting engagement in this school, strengthening and
lengthening student participation and motivation. Despite the wide international use of
the aesthetic today, consideration is given to the possibility that Graffiti Art may have
been intentionally left out of the NYC Arts Blueprints document because certain public
officials believe any such study glorifies the subculture of vandals in NYC who first
developed the art style. Thus the dilemma today of educators who may fear they could be
encouraging students to engage in illegal graffiti application by way of “endorsing”
Graffiti Art. A look into the origins of graffiti and the birth and rise of the 1970s-1980s
urban Graffiti Art phenomenon suggests it is exactly the perception by youth of stifling
institutional authoritarianism that makes the continuing reappearance of illegal graffiti art
inevitable.


graff-prez



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