The Graffiti Towers of Washington Grove: A Photographic Gallery

The Graffiti Towers of Washington Grove: A Photographic Gallery


Yesterday, in Adding a wooded haven to the Cobb’s Hill series with a stroll through Washington GroveGeorge Cassidy Payne offered a naturalistic montage capturing the ancient beauty of Washington Grove.

Today, George reflects on the graffiti art that covers much of the abandoned water towers atop Cobb’s Hill.

George’s discussion is especially relevant when we consider that the subway entrance on South Avenue is being permanently blocked off.  The barrier will make the lavish graffiti art underground almost inaccessible.

In Entering The Jae Era with Deeper than the Subway. in her striking photo montage and narrative, Erica Jae laments the now hard-to-find graffiti art. As Erica says:

The space was more than just an abandoned tunnel. It was a free art gallery for people to express themselves any which way.

Much like the abandoned water towers atop Cobb’s Hill.


The Graffiti Towers of Washington Grove: A Photographic Gallery.

For a long time I have been interested in the debate over graffiti. On one side it has been called a revolutionary art form that breaks boundaries and upends social narratives about beauty, professionalism, property, freedom, law, order, and so much more. On the other side, it is seen as an obnoxious impostor in the art world — one that makes a mockery of painting and a juvenile enterprise of outdoor expressionism. By the way, it is also illegal.


From inside one of the abandoned water towers atop Washington Grove. From 172 years ago when the Millerites trudged down Cobb’s Hill

Those who say that graffiti is not just a real art form but art at its most fundamental, would find the water towers at “Washington Grove” enthralling. Those who say that graffiti is not a real art form but a menace to society, will see graffiti-marked towers as appalling, vandalized relics of a now gone and more mature and temperate age.

But isn’t that what art is all about? Pick a side. Make a stand. Declare your position. Fight for your beliefs. Defend them at all costs. Make your life your art. Make every declaration an artistic one. Do not succumb to platitudes and verbiage. Do not be an imitated version of your best self. The very fact that graffiti makes us ask these questions and pursue these existential problems, is proof enough that it is a genuine art form that must be reckoned with.

All good art challenges the notions of who we want to be. The best art changes who we want to be without our permission. It makes us see another possibility of ourselves whether we want to or not. It forces us to grow.

All photography by George Cassidy Payne


Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing. And even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can make someone smile while they’re having a piss.
Banksy, Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall


Some people become cops because they want to make the world a better place. Some people become vandals because they want to make the world a better looking place.
Banksy, Wall and Piece


Speak softly, but carry a big can of paint.”
Banksy, Wall and Piece


People say graffiti is ugly, irresponsible and childish… but that’s only if it’s done properly.
Banksy, Wall and Piece


I was here but now I’m gone
I left my name to carry on
Those who liked meDSCF0371
Liked me well
Those who didn’t can go to hell
-“The bathroom wall”
E.M. Crane, Skin Deep


“If it takes more than 5 minutes, its not graffiti.”
Mint Serf

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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