Downtown hit hard by graffiti

In yesterday’s Northfield News: Police investigate Riverwalk graffiti.

Police are working to determine whether graffiti spray-painted on the downtown Riverwalk is gang-related. Capt. Roger Schroeder said the vandalism was discovered about 2 a.m. Monday morning by a patrol officer doing a routine check of area businesses. The spray-painted symbols were reportedly found on several buildings in the 300 block of Division Street.

graffiti-sshot I took photos this morning of the graffiti. It’s really bad. The backs of the buildings from 4th to 3rd on the west side of Division were the hardest hit, with some on the west side of the river, too.

I was asked a few years ago by then Police Chief Smith to not blog photos of graffiti, as there’s some evidence that this encourages the crime. So I’ve put up a slideshow of the 15 photos in a password-protected blog post (below). Contact me if you’d like the password (assuming I know who you are and trust you to not pass it on or publicize it). Photo album now viewable here.

I know the City has a policy for removing graffiti ASAP from public places/infrastructure. (I notice at least 3 places in this current outbreak where it is on public property.) But is there anything that requires owners of private/commercial property to remove it?  Does it matter that this occurred in the downtown’s historic district? Are there public funds available to reimburse property owners for the expense of graffiti removal?


  1. April Ripka said:

    i’m sure whoever did it thinks they are pretty damn smooth. i’m not an expert or anything on the stuff, but long time ago i knew a couple people that were pretty into it. except they saw it more as an art form and NEVER did it on private property. mostly old abandoned or condemned buildings and train cars. (i never did it, fyi!) as an artist i do recognize that there’s an amazing variety of graffiti artwork out there. i respect and appreciate it when done LEGALLY. however, tagging a bunch of scribbles on private property, not to mention beautiful stone and brick work, is just plain pathetic. i know “SK” either stands for something or is someone’s tag (alias), but C’MON! go get a sketch book and wear out your juvenille urges on it or something. most people i know that can actually write graffiti-type well are pretty good artists or graphic designers. it’s sad to think that whoever did this might actually have an inkling of talent and are wasting it defacing public and private property.
    i know a lot of people are extremely ticked about what happened, so please don’t think i’m defending the graffiti or anything. i was pretty upset when i saw it – believe me. i thought that maybe, just MAYBE, whoever did it might actually be checking up on press to see if anyone is talking about their “work.” it might go to deaf ears, but i had to give it my perspective.
    i’d be surprised if it really is a gang rather than one or more bored teenagers looking for a rush. really guys, find a better past-time. a LEGAL one.

    March 27, 2008
  2. Although I disagree with the person who drew their sign on private property without permission, I am happy that attention is drawn to the fact that there is very little in the way of murals around this city. In Oklahoma, nearly every little town has at least one lovely mural, and some towns paint every worthy wall.

    In the twin cities I see mural art in the neighborhoods and in Chicago, why
    there is some fantastic mural art in surprising places. The city supported the graffiti artists with contests and prizes for the best and it really worked out well for everyone.

    I wish that Northfield was more supportive of visual arts.

    March 29, 2008
  3. Rob Hardy said:

    There used to be a huge mural on the north side of the Medical Arts Building on the corner of 2nd and Division. I think most people hated it. And it seems to me I recall a mural of authors’ portraits on the side of the old Author’s Ink bookstore, when it was where Oolala is now.

    March 29, 2008
  4. Mural art should be of the people.
    Were the people at large ever asked
    to submit ideas or images to be part of the mural
    that once graced the walls of downtown?

    Oh, the wheat sculpture is fine,
    but how does it relate to most of the people in town.
    Oh, we all eat bread? Oh. I see.

    We are now living in the 21st century. We should be
    commisioning art that respresents it.

    Artists around here are not challenged enough.

    What have you to say, all you supporters of great art?

    Thanks for your input, Rob.

    March 30, 2008
  5. Bright, the “wheat sculpture” relates to Northfield’s history as a mill town (Ames Mill, etc., so important to the founding of the town), and Malt-O-Meal, along with many others, is contributing to the incorporation of this sculpture (now at Malt-O-Meal’s entrance) into the new development along the river, within view of Ames Mill. It will be a very worthy addition to iconic Northfield, just as the Bridge Square fountain is (also designed by Ray Jacobson). Ray has donated his time and talent to this project and we are very lucky to have him with us here, still contributing his artistic vision to the town.

    March 30, 2008
  6. It’s a great tribute to the past, Susan. I appreciate
    the fact that none of us would prolly be here in the
    midwest as we now are, the soon to be former bread
    basket of the world. And I bow to the great Ray
    Jacobson and his contribution. Why is he not being
    supported financially here? If his work is as valuable
    as you say, why did he have to donate all his time and
    effort? And why wasn’t one wheat sculpture enough?

    I don’t have a problem with artists donating their work,
    that is all I have done since I moved here, my time at
    teaching and my artwork. That’s fine, but it just
    supports my theory that Northfield is being supported
    by it’s artists and not so much the other way around.

    March 30, 2008
  7. kiffi summa said:

    First of all, I love grafitti ART.
    Second, I hate grafitti on my brick building, in a historic district where I may NOT make use of any inexpensive way of removing it from the brick(Can’t sandblast in the historic district; ground walnut shells only…Keep tuned for the estimate!)
    Third, where in the heck were the police? The extent of the Damage seems to indicate a long presence, at a time when no one but the police should have been around. (We have had very good night police patrols in the past: doesn’t seem so now)
    Fourth, where is an appropriate place for this very “expressive-of-our-society-today” kind of Art?
    For some years I tried to find a place, in the DT, for a Grafitti Wall… one big continuous “can you top this” challenge. No support for the idea; no takers.

    When I get the estimate back from the historic restoration complany, I think it will prove why it cannot be removed every time, when on a masonry building.

    Maybe the EDA, in support of its highly acclaimed and valuable historic business district (see the EDA’s TIP report) could have a grant program for grafitti removal.

    Stay tuned for removal estimate……….

    P.S. best text grafitti I ever saw: “Mom, sending love and best wishes for the recovery of your health all over the country for you” on the side of a railroad car going through NF.

    March 30, 2008
  8. Although this might not be the right time or place to have this discussion
    about art, especially mural art on the walls of downtown Northfield, I think
    I will go ahead and talk about what art means to me.

    When I was a child, my aunt had the loveliest landscape painting in a lovely room where I would go and rest when we visited her. I would see that painting and wonder where it was, wonder how it looked like I could walk right into it if I was smaller. I wondered about where my life would go if I walked down that path in the painting. I wondered and I dreamed for long periods of time.

    When I grew up, the place where everyone went when they visitied Chicago was the Chicago Art Institute and so did I. Every chance I got. The worlds
    it opened to me, the techniques, the thoughts of a thousand possibilities.
    the link to our human ancestors and what they were capable of creating.

    Art also means laughing at our human folly, crying over our ineptness.
    And even more than a play or a book, it can be done in a few seconds.

    Who has ever seen Lorado Taft’s “Solitude of the Soul” and not felt what
    that man saw and knew and was able to portray? Who has ever seen
    Rembrandt’s “Christ” and not wondered about this Man and the look of
    complete abandon and utter love in His eyes? Who can look at the work of Titian and not see the brilliance of a man who lived hundreds of years ago?

    All art has merit to it. Some value some things more than others, but it must not be ignored or taken for granted. It should be given the energy
    to understand what is before the viewer as much as the artists has given
    in hopes that you will come to understand humanity and what comes with it and from it in a new and hopefully helpful way.

    That’s my take on it today anyway.

    March 30, 2008
  9. I cannot speak for Ray, but my understanding is that he voluntarily offered to contribute his time and talents to this project so that it could be done. He is civic-minded and this will be part of his legacy, as is the fountain. But there are many other expenses connected with this project which both individuals and groups are contributing to. For example, the Northfield Area Foundation has pledged $10,000 toward the cost of installing this ton and a half sculpture downtown as part of the Streetscape plan.
    I am not sure what you mean by “Why wasn’t one wheat sculpture enough?” The one currently at Malt-O-Meal is the one which will be moved downtown when the time comes.
    I guess we are getting off the topic of graffiti here.

    March 30, 2008
  10. I was referring to the fountain at Bridge Sq., Susan. And, btw, I liked your frog sculpture, whimsical as it appears, it brought more that amusement
    to my mind, and that’s what good art can do, it can transcend even the subject matter that brought it into manifestation.

    This is what I am hoping to see; a dialogue about art by artists and art lovers and people who wish to be rounded out balanced individuals who can flex out of their tight daily routines and skip around a little bit with abandonment and curiosity, without having to break the rules too much, and perhaps commission some good art.

    As to the murals, a good artist could certianly incorporated brick work,
    for goodness sakes, and create a kind of floating or 3D mural. Where is
    our imagination?

    Sorry, I have to go now, but I hope to see some continuance of this discussion when I get back.

    March 31, 2008
  11. BruceWMorlan said:

    Unlike Kiffi, I find graffiti to never be art, and am made uncomfortable and less safe when I see it. Of course I grew up in an era when graffiti meant that a neighborhood was run down and not cared for. As for wall murals, I love to see them in other exotic locations (e.g., but would just as soon not see them every day.

    March 31, 2008
  12. kiffi summa said:

    Bruce: I hate it when we disagree! When you’re down in Rochester, go to their fabulous Art Center, or Public Library and see if you find a big (“coffee table”) book on Graffiti Art. Then also look at some books on “Outsider Art”, specifically one called “ART BRUT”, published in the 70’s from a very famous European exhibit. As you’re looking at these, think about Soutine, sneaking into the slaughterhouses in Paris to steal sides of beef to take back to his studio to paint (and later probably eat), and think of him as an “outsider”.
    I’d be willing to bet that your very “questing” mind will modify your gut reaction to graffiti……..
    Let me know………can this be a Politics and a Pint? or are we restricted from the Politics of Art?

    March 31, 2008
  13. I just came back from Rochester and saw a mural of people reading. It was really nice to see something besides towering cranes and buildings and
    blizzard like conditions, even in passing.

    Kiffi, I am so happy be with you on this and Hope you can accept me as
    a replacement for Bruce. I saw him in a grocery store the other evening
    and he had six boxes of fuddy duddy cereal in his cart and that is all. 🙂
    Just kidding.

    Anyway, I am going to find my photo of Chicago graffiti and post it.

    March 31, 2008
  14. My dh just had a brilliant idea, imho…he said “Northfield could have a snow wall and let the kids graffiti it.” and I took it further to say let them paint with watercolors, any snowcovered surface.

    March 31, 2008
  15. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    The instinct for leaving one’s mark goes back to grade school for some of us. Wooden desks lend themselves to being gouged or marked, for example. It kept teachers and custodians busy, removing the evidence.

    With the advent of spray paint in cans, it became easier to mark surfaces, hit and run fashion. All spray paint in cans should be banned, in my opinion. Also magic markers.

    The only part of the Kucera mural on the Medical Arts Building I liked was the medical symbol over the back door which was like a big pointer, beckoning people into my shop. Since it was not in the historic district, I acknowledged Dallas Haas’ right to have a mural on his building. He submitted it to the arts committee, but they refused to critique it. That was a mistake. When the painter had his sketch on the wall, it didn’t look too bad. Fully developed, it was not good. But the arts committee could have headed that off.

    April 19, 2009

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