Don’t Call It Graffiti

Richmond-based mural artist Hamilton Glass talks about his craft.  

While some consider it vandalism, graffiti is, in its purest form, an artistic expression of ideas and emotions. With its annual event series Richmond Mural Project, Virginia’s capital city is on the forefront of the national graffiti scene, with large murals gracing the walls of dozens of homes and businesses around Carytown. Many of them are by Philadelphia native Hamilton Glass, who says he has created more than 80 murals in Richmond alone since moving there in 2007. We asked him about what drives his passion.   

What makes Richmond so attractive for graffiti artists?

I believe Richmond is an attractive place to artists in general. In this era, murals are a popular form of expression and muralists are labeled graffiti artists because of the medium used to make that expression. I also believe Richmond is just the perfect size to allow artists create great projects without much resistance, bureaucracy or to many hoops to jump through.

What called you to become a graffiti artist?

I’m not sure I would call myself that. I’m an artist that started and was inspired by the medium of graffiti. Growing up in Philadelphia, I’ve always been inspired by murals and the ability to express your artwork on large walls. The experience of walking up to a painting larger than yourself has always been amazing to me. Murals have always been something special to me beyond the traditional canvas artwork.

How do you go about crafting a mural?

The process of creating a murals of course all depends on the client. There are clients that would like to see every detail in the schematic before the mural is actually painted, and there are others who give you more room to create how you see fit. I prefer to lay out a loose schematic and leave room for artistic merit when actually painting the piece.

Some still consider street art a form of vandalism. What do you tell the skeptics?  

Their will always be vandalism as there will always be some young kid looking to have their voice heard through art. The challenge is to channel that energy into legal avenues. People are confusing street art with vandalism because the styles are now very close and the same mediums are being used in their production. Ex-graffiti artists are now making a living creating legal street art. Art is art, and vandalism isn’t determined by the fact that you used spray paint in your work.

How many murals in total have you done in Richmond?

I believe I have over 80 murals in richmond if your counting both the interior and exterior kind.

What’s the most ambitious mural that you have yet to do?

That question changes every year for me. As of right now I would love to do a mural that involves multiple generations of a community in the process of its creation. Social change projects are the most rewarding to me and I’m fascinated on how creative placemaking can change the dynamic of a community.

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