Prominent graffiti tags causing headaches for Lethbridge businesses

Graffiti is causing headaches for some local businesses.

In recent months, Wayne Tytula, owner of Brio Salon Spa noticed an increase in graffiti tags in the area and predicted it would be a target.

“I knew it was probably a matter of time before we also got hit, and sure enough a couple of weeks ago on a Friday night we were tagged as well,” said Tytula.

On February 8, a neighbouring business to Brio, Paramount Printers, caught the vandal scaling their building to tag the salon.

“We a have security camera in the back capturing the gentleman with an expandable ladder and he made his way up on the roof in the middle of the night,” said Co-Owner of Paramount Printers, Courtney Gregson. “Took him about an hour.”

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Similar-looking graffiti has appeared along 3rd Avenue and in the downtown in recent weeks, with many of the works tagged 2024.

While an obvious effort is being put into vigilante artwork, the illegal acts aren’t necessarily appreciated.

“As a local artist, graphic designer myself, I’m a bit biased about the graffiti that’s been going on in the city,” added Gregson. “Visually it’s quite appealing, from a standpoint of trespassing and vandalism that’s kind of my borderline issue with it.”

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Tytula notes that the graffiti artist in question is putting a lot of effort into the work.

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“I would challenge this artist to do something positive with his work,” said Tytula. “There’s been many famous graffiti artists, Banksy, Jean-Micheal Basquiat, their artwork is still around years after they’re gone because it’s valued as art with social meaning.”

Tytula said while the damage done to the side of his building could cost thousands of dollars to properly remove or cover up, he’s been approached by another artist to potentially cover the graffiti with meaningful art.

“If I’m going to spend money covering up, maybe I’ll spend money doing something beautiful,” added Tytula. “So, there’s an opportunity for this person to come out of the darkness and bring their art into the light, so people can appreciate it for what it is.”

While private businesses are tasked with paying out of pocket to remove unsolicited graffiti, businesses located in the Downtown Lethbridge BRZ zone can benefit from the graffiti removal program.

BRZ executive director, Sarah Amies, says a division of the Clean Streets Program, which is funded through the City of Lethbridge, sends out a dedicated group of people to quickly and efficiently clean off graffiti.

However, the effort to clean up the downtown will ramp up when the weather improves.

“We run a cold-water pressure washer and it’s really difficult to run it in the wintertime,” said Amies. “So that’s why there does seem to be a proliferation of graffiti right now, but it’s sort of situation normal, it’s just we haven’t been taking it down.”

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Amies went on to add that last summer they noticed a jump in graffiti and removed nearly 100 tags in a month.

The City of Lethbridge has its own graffiti removal process and will resolve issues made on public property, and if people are concerned about tags they’re encouraged to call to 311.

According to the city, 311 averaged 16 requests per month in 2023 and are currently sitting a total of 16 calls for action on graffiti in 2024.

Global News reached out to Lethbridge Police Service who confirm they’re investigating the graffiti.

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