Why do they tag? It's not out of rebellion, destruction, or solely for outlaw risk, Mike says. It's mostly about fame and popularity. Only in cases as extreme as 220 Felch does Mike consider tagging vandalism. He hadn't heard of Gexir's arrest and punishment, and seemed surprised to learn of it.
Is that a deterrent? Maybe for the younger kids, says Mike, but for his own age group, probably not. It might even have the opposite effect. "I think people will keep doing what they do," he says.
If deterrence fails, some feel, perhaps all that creativity can be diverted into legal channels. Long before the city's crackdown, the Ann Arbor District Library began hosting a Teen Graffiti Art Exhibit, a contest held annually during the Art Fair. Says AADL director Josie Parker, "The message is ... there is an appropriate place and an appropriate way to exhibit graffiti--and it's not on the sides of buildings or on people's houses."
The message apparently missed its mark with one dexterous youth. Gexir himself was the exhibit's 2010 third-prize winner. This past summer, even as the Felch incident was wending its way through the courts, Gexir entered again--and took first place.