By Abigail Cambiano
May 18, 2017
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – A group of heavily tattooed men were found spray painting on a wall near St. John and Hardesty avenues on the afternoon of Thursday, May 18. The catch? They were asked to do it.
Ben Watson, a professional painter in the Kansas City area, has been covering up tags and low-quality graffiti for almost 25 years.
Watson wants to share his message that graffiti does not have to be bad, and it can be a “win-win situation” if there is a level of respect between artists and their communities. He said it is an unwritten rule that graffiti does not go on houses or personal property.
Watson described it as “broken window syndrome,” meaning where there is one, more will follow. He is working to get rid of disrespectful, unwanted and bad graffiti in Kansas City.
“We want to earn their respect and we want to inspire them to get better,” he said of those causing vandalism in low-income neighborhoods.
Uriel Leon, a tattoo and mural designer from Ventura, California, and his friends are here because Kansas City is a “place to relax” from their constant work back home. Many of them are tattoo artists and “retired” surfers.
“We’re here to help,” Leon, who has been doing murals for about 15 years, said. The mural at St. John and Hardesty Avenues is estimated to take about six hours, as they will have to finish when the sun sets.
Watson’s other work can be found throughout Kansas City, both commissioned and for free as his approach to cleaning up the streets in his city.