Graffiti is a huge problem in many urban areas. In Chicago, one resident decided to fight graffiti with more graffiti.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Dave Prawdzik, a 66-year-old Vietnam veteran, was fed up with the constant graffiti defacing the fence outside of his home. The fence was designed to protect his yard from the elements but unfortunately, it was unable to protect itself from vandals.
Last fall, he decided the best way to prevent more graffiti was to create a permanent and bold graffiti-work of his own.
For years, Prawdzik alerted the city about the graffiti outside of his home. Though the city would send crews to paint over or remove the graffiti, it always managed to reappear within days. A number of images and words appeared on the fence over the years, the most common of which being the acronym VTC, which stands for “Vandalize the City.” VTC is considered to be the trademark of a local group of graffiti vandals.
“They’re not a gang,” said Capt. Marc Buslik of the Chicago Police Department. “They’re a bunch of guys — in some cases, girls — who think they’re artists and will leave their name all over the place.”
Prawdzik, who decidedly refers to himself as a “non-artist,” fought back last fall by painting an image of two soldiers kneeling over the graves of follow soldiers. After its completion, the graffiti suddenly stopped.
“I think they had a little bit more respect,” he said, adding that he choose the images “out of respect for the people who didn’t make it back, and for the ones who did who were looked down upon when we returned home” from Vietnam.
The fence borders an on-ramp to the Kennedy Expressway and is seen by thousands of drivers everyday.
Capt. Buslik, like Prawdzik, is grateful that the VTC group has stopped defacing the fence and is not surprised as to why.
“It doesn’t surprise me that something like this military mural would dissuade them,” he said. “I mean, these aren’t desperadoes. These are street artists. People just trying to get their name out there.”
“They’re not hateful people,” he added. “They’re not mean. They’re not evil.”
Prawdzik has yet to report any new graffiti but still keeps his guard up. “Every day I look around the fence to make sure it’s not tagged. It’s like a ritual for me,” he said.
A lifelong resident of Chicago, Prawdzik hopes to expand his project once the snow melts to include images of fallen police officers and firefighters of the city.
“Hopefully, whoever’s doing this will continue to respect it,” he said.