Paradise Ruined

Photo #1
Letting Graffiti Tell the Story

As with most posts in this blog, this is a work-in-progress. I plan on posting photos of other works of graffiti as I find them.
What follows is a series of photographs depicting the graffiti that is popping up around town. These messages are on the mark when it comes to our feelings and the way we talk about growth.

Photo #2
Bozeman is in another period of tremendous growth and development. It seems like everyone wants to live in our small corner of paradise. Between growing pains and the disappointment over the presidential election, it is tumultuous times for Bozemanites. Things are changing at a rapid pace both locally and nationally, and we're having a hard time finding common ground as a community and as a country.

It seems like every time you look around town, another old building (Photo #1) is being torn down to make way for new buildings (Photo #2). Many times, the developers behind these projects tear down existing businesses and residences to make way for new, more expensive businesses and residences. And with these new developments come more people, more traffic and an ever more frantic way of life. To many, our small and comfortable town isn't so small and comfortable any more.

Change can be scary as once familiar landscapes change and new and unfamiliar people and places surround us. There is a real fear that Bozeman is becoming "ruined." At times like these, our instinct is to make our voices heard and do what we can so Bozeman maintains a pleasant vibe and high quality of life.

Modern technology enables us to broadcast our message to the masses. Through social media, the comments section of the local newspaper, and so many forms of communication that did not exist 20 years ago, there are more outlets than ever to air frustrations, express opinions and argue with the opposition. Despite these new mediums, some folks have taken to one of the good old fashioned way of expressing their feelings - graffiti.

Below are a few of works of graffiti that caught my eye. What strikes me is how these pieces echo the exact language we are using in other medium when we talk about growth. 

Kicking Out the Locals 
Graffiti in Bozeman, MT
One common fear in regard to growth is that it will become so that "locals" can no longer afford to live here. Right now we won't define what constitutes a local as that is an extremely debatable and heated topic worthy of its own post.

While the reality is that new development often causes taxes to go up and prices to rise making it harder for long time residents to afford to live here, I'm not sure that anyone's intention is to "kick out locals." Either way, the sentiment of locals being forced out is repeated over and over again.

Graffiti, Bozeman, MT
We Don’t Want to Become "That" Place
Whether it be California, Denver, Aspen, or some other perceived undesirable location, Bozeman and many growing mountain towns want to avoid becoming like someplace else. It is common to hear Bozemanits express concern that the area will become like Denver, a cookie-cutter, sprawling mass of hundreds of thousands of people with endless traffic, no originality, and a bland Anywhere-USA feel. Others express fear that Bozeman might turn into the next Aspen or Jackson Hole, overly expensive, out of reach financially for many, and out of touch with the needs and desires of ordinary people.

Whatever "that" place is, we want to avoid becoming it. A bumper-sticker popular in southern Wyoming in the early 1990s declared, "Don't California-ized Colorado, Don't Colorado-ize Wyoming." Keep your eye out - perhaps the graffiti artists will create a "Don't Aspen-ized Jackson, Don't Jackson-ize Bozeman" bumpersticker.

Fighting Back
Fighting growth in Bozeman, MT
As with many facets of life, when people feel threatened, they find ways to counteract what frightens them. Efforts to "fight back" against growth in Bozeman are far and wide.

A "Save Bozeman" Facebook page advertises its existence on yard signs popping up around town, residents pack city commission meetings to make their voices heard, letters to the editor come in by the dozens, and articles in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle draw tons of comments with posters engaging in some pretty nasty dialogue. These are some of the many ways we organize and begin to take action against what bothers us, with some of these methods take on a more combative, fighting nature than others.

Bozeman Graffiti, Not Impressed
Again, lots of ways to get the word out, make our voices heard, and organize people, but how many of these forms of communication actually lead to effective action? Sure, we can put up a good fight, but we need more than a fight to enable change and combat growth. I'm a strong believer that as a community and as a country, our similarities are stronger than our differences. Unity and working together peacefully are more effective than fighting, but I guess it's not a concise and easy message to to convey via graffiti.

If you spot other good graffiti, please contact me (You can leave a message on this post or you can send a private message via the comment box on the upper right-hand side of the homepage of this blog) and I'll try to get a photo of the graffiti to post here.