The Coast News Group
Community Commentary

What we need is a sanctioned street art rubric

“The Magic Carpet Ride,” more commonly referred to as the “Cardiff Kook,” has been the target of numerous re-workings. It has been dressed up as Cupid, has been eaten by a shark, has outed the Encinitas City Council as a propaganda yielding “Surfing Madonna,” and, as referenced in a letter I recently received from the Encinitas deputy city manager, has dressed as Vincent Van Gogh.
In the letter sent to Snyder Art referring to the transforming of the “Kook” into Van Gogh, Deputy City Manager Richard Phillips proclaimed that the statue was vandalized. As seen in a series of photos documenting the techniques and materials used during the installation, no adhesive or paint of any sort was applied to the statue. All props were hung or attached by non-evasive wires with the purpose of eliminating all chances of damage and easy removal.
Phillips continued to inform that the public art program was established to “respect cultural heritage, promote artistic development and add dignity and beauty to public spaces of the city of Encinitas.”
Is it wrong to credit the “Kook” and all of its creative, imaginative and widely supported re-workings, for not only abiding within the city objectives, but also advocating them?
Each installation is a commentary on local and national current and cultural events. It has promoted a slew of artistic installations and it continues to encourage the development of a more artistic community. Most importantly, it has transformed a public art embarrassment into something enjoyed, applauded and sought.
Phillips also emphasized that it is “unlawful for any person to intentionally damage or deface public property and it is considered an act of vandalism.” But at the same time, the city has gone on record claiming it “does not officially condone dressing up the statue, (but) it allows it to happen so long as it is not malicious.”
If the above quote isn’t proof that some street art should be extracted from the definition of vandalism, what is? Even the City Council of Encinitas — home of the “Cardiff Kook” sculpture and the City-Council-deemed vandalism “Suring Madonna” mosaic — seems to be confused.
We are living during the development of art history’s newest art movement.
Street and urban public art will be written about in the books future students study from. “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” a documentary by the famously anonymous street artist Banksy, was recently nominated for an
Oscar. Street projects are showing up in worldwide publications almost daily, and prestigious museums are dedicating entire spaces to street art exhibits.
With the popularity of street art rapidly increasing and its wide support by the public, city officials are finding themselves stuck between a potential public outcry and an outdated definition. It is time to extract street art from the definition of vandalism!
I propose the idea of a Sanctioned Street Art Rubric — a detailed grading system that scores a piece of street art in six different categories. Each category is worth 10 points. The sum of all category scores (60 point max) will decide whether the piece is sanctioned street art or vandalism, ultimately advising the city/property owner on the future of the piece.
The categories the rubric covers include Aesthetic Artistry, Community Acceptance, Level of Offensiveness; Relevance to Location, Public Safety and the Cost of Removal, if deemed vandalism.
Visit for a detailed analysis of the above categories, as well as the “Surfing Madonna” score.

1 comment

Just Envious July 22, 2011 at 6:07 pm

I challenge Brian to transform the Cardiff Kook into a Richard Phillips outfit. They are about the same size, and let’s be honest, this is only about envy of the uninspired.

Thank you Encinitas art community for creating art that WE love and appreciate!! You make Encinitas a better place for all of the rest of us. We love you. Never give up!

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