Malvern Gazette Opinion: The tricky business of deciding what is art and what is damage

Malvern Gazette: WELCOMED: The Elgar street art at a Great Malvern bus shelter WELCOMED: The Elgar street art at a Great Malvern bus shelter

SO is it art or is it vandalism?

We are writing, of course, about the street art on the Wells Road bus shelter beneath Rosebank Gardens in Great Malvern.

It was illicitly painted, as we reveal today, by Lee Morris and Tom Brown in the early hours of last Sunday morning.

But they were caught red-handed by police.

Then something surprising happened.

Far from vilifying the pair for defiling public property, townsfolk embraced their work with enthusiasm.

A poll on the website of the Malvern Gazette and our sister title the Worcester News showed 85 per cent of respondents thought it was art compared with just 11 per cent who thought it vandalism.

Malvern Town Council, which has responsibility for the bus shelter, swiftly decided to go with the popular mood.

Far from condemning the artists, it said their bus shelter pictures would be secured – and more may even be commissioned elsewhere.

This seems a commonsense response by the council, but it risks setting a precedent likely to encourage less welcome graffiti elsewhere.

As it turns out, the Elgar paintings form a striking and imaginative project that brightens up a rather drab spot.

But public property cannot be seen as a blank canvas for would-be artists to showcase their talents without fear of the consequences.

For a start, who is qualified to rule what is art and what is graffiti? Beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.

We hope that a Pandora’s box has not unwittingly been opened.

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