THE Graffiti Gallery's executive director says graffiti taggers don't have to resort to illegal activity to create the art they love.
Stephen Wilson says his gallery offers taggers a chance to display their artistry without fear of breaking the law. He was commenting on the case of two 19-year-old Winnipeggers arrested in the last few weeks for graffiti offences.
"There's a place like this for them to come," Wilson said Thursday. "There are even more opportunities than ever before for someone to hone their skills and earn some money off of their work.
"There's just really no need for it to be done illegally anymore."
On July 27, city police arrested Jovain Hildebrand, 19, in connection with graffiti on more than 100 St. Boniface buildings. The graffiti bore the tags "Carot," "Urban Graff King" and "UGF."
He faces 44 charges of mischief under $5,000 as well as mischief over $5,000 and possession of a controlled substance.
On Wednesday, police arrested another 19-year-old man after obtaining a search warrant for a home in the 300 block of St. Anne's Road.
Investigators say between May 3, 2011 and July 16, 2012 numerous locations throughout the city were vandalized with the graffiti tag "Swish," "Swishbone" and "ITD" (Inclined to Destroy).
Those tags caused about $900,000 in damage.
The alleged offender, whom police have not identified, has been charged with 140 counts of mischief and possession of marijuana.
Wilson said the Graffiti Gallery steers young people away from illegal tagging by offering free art programs and mentorships from professional artists.
The gallery has a zero-tolerance policy for anyone engaging in illegal activity.
"We don't condone that or encourage it at all. We do more than the average youth organization to combat that," he said.
"For sure we have a long-standing policy here that if any of our participants are caught doing illegal graffiti especially, then they are asked to leave our program."
Wilson isn't worried the arrests will create a negative opinion of graffiti art in the city.
He said he believes graffiti vandalism is decreasing.