Graffiti artists spray from the soul

‘Writing on Walls’ exhibit now open in Downtown Auburn
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal Features Editor
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The Arts Building in Downtown Auburn has been tagged by graffiti artists, and the gallery crew couldn’t be happier.

“I’m blown away,” said Angela Tahti, executive director for PlacerArts. “It’s been wonderful to see the gallery transformed from white walls to these wonderful colors and meaningful icons and logos. It’s been really fun.”

“Writing on Walls” is a collaboration of PlacerArts and the Auburn Hip Hop Congress that features aerosol art by nine artists from Auburn, Loomis and Sacramento. Running through Feb. 29 at The Arts Building Gallery, the exhibit will include interactive events to allow the public to meet the artists and see the artists in action. There will also be performances by vocalists and dancers.

The vibrant display covers the walls and includes framed art and displays hanging from the rafters. Tahti said the walls of the gallery were painted in just one night.

“It makes me feel free,” explained artist Myk Santori, of Auburn, whose work covers an entire wall of the display. “My feelings just come out. I usually don’t even know what I’m going to do at first, but I feel free. I kind of go to my happy place. There’s nothing there – no other care in the world that I have right now but doing what I’m doing.”

Santori gave a live demonstration of graffiti art at the opening reception Thursday evening, explaining how to use a paint marker to create detailed work on a large scale. Some artists work in mixtures of aerosol paint and acrylics to create smaller works, while others, like Joshua Rose, of Auburn, prefer the vast space a can of spray paint can cover.

“What I love most about the can is that you can do big areas – a mad amount of space in a short amount of time,” Rose said.

The “Writing on Walls” artists acknowledge the stigma associated with graffiti, but several pointed out that there’s a big difference between trespassing on private property to vandalize and creating murals in a welcoming environment like The Arts Building.

“Obviously, I couldn’t trespass into here and paint on this wall,” said Loomis artist Doug Kleinsmith. “I think there’s a bad side to everything. If somebody writes their gang name all over the place and is tagging, I wouldn’t support that or anything, but I don’t think that we should condemn all graffiti because of some people’s mistakes.”

Tahti echoed that sentiment, explaining that the intent of “Writing on Walls” is “to bring what is usually outside, and in the middle of the night, inside and to the light of day, and really allow people to experience graffiti and the wonderful artists who have endeavored in it since they were little tykes.”

Auburn residents Denice Zengo and Ron McLerren visited the exhibit during the reception, and both said they were impressed with the displays and happy to see the younger crowd get involved at the gallery.

“I love it,” Zengo said. “I think it’s fabulous, and I think it’s very cool that they did something like this.”

Organizer Rocky Zapata said he couldn’t be more pleased with the efforts of PlacerArts and the Hip Hop Congress in bringing attention to aerosol art.

“I think it’s a beautiful art, and I just love the fact that it’s opening up to our community now, and that people get to see it how we see it, and feel the culture of it, feel it as part of a movement more than just vandalism.”Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at


“Writing on Walls”

What: Aerosol art exhibit

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays through Feb. 29

Where: The Arts Building Gallery, 808 Lincoln Way, Auburn

Events: Interactive events Feb. 17, 23 and 28 will allow the public to meet the artists and experience graffiti.