In today’s society, art is constantly being brought up in the news.
Like general news, we see the good and the bad that is happening in the world. Art can often hold a mirror to the very face of society when artists use their voice to make known the real issues in society. Audiences tend to become more sensitive when these issues are put on blast because it tends to become reality once a piece is created. One artist who stuck out to me when searching for art in the news was Keith Haring. Keith Haring was a pop artist who use New York City as his canvas.
He started his career by drawing on panels that were in the subways. From subway stations to city walls his graffiti caught the eye of many city walkers. One of Haring’s pieces that caught the most attention was his “Crack is Wack” mural. The “Crack is Wack” mural was created in 1986.
Haring created this piece on a handball court on the side of the Harlem River Drive in Harlem, New York. Keith Haring decided to make this piece to promote an anti-drug campaign after his assistant began abusing crack, which is a drug cheaper than cocaine. Haring did everything in his power to try and save him. Making this piece would bring attention to the crack epidemic that was storming the United States at the time. On the morning he created the mural, he arrived with a rented van and ladders of various size. No one questioned whether or not he had permission and as he was creating the piece cars that were passing by on the highway beeped to show appreciation and realization of his work.
After finishing the piece, police arrived and started questioning if Haring had a permit to be working the handball court. He was then arrested and later released with a court date. “Crack is Wack” went viral in the media because it was at the time of Reagan’s, “War on Drugs.” Whenever drugs were talked about in the news, the mural was often flashed across the screen. Haring’s purpose of creating this piece was finally receiving the attention it deserved.
Both the mayor and parks commissioner at the time had reached out to Haring. The parks commissioner apologized for what Haring was going through because of his art and offered any help he could provide. A couple of weeks after Haring was recognized by the commissioner the handball court was vandalized. Whoever vandalized the mural had made it into a pro-crack campaign causing the Parks Department to paint over the whole thing. They then reached out to Haring himself and asked if he would recreate the piece since they owned the property and not the city.
He took up the offer and re-created the “Crack is Wack” mural. It has not been touched since, besides a renovation, and the park located next to it has been named the Crack is Wack Playground. As a teenager in today’s society drugs seem to be at one of their highest epidemics.
I live on Staten Island and everyday stories are being reported about overdoses and drug busts. People don’t realize the attention that needs to be brought to the issue and having Haring create this mural does just that. We hear about these busts and overdoses but there really is never any action taken. Putting it on blast puts into perspective how serious drugs are.
It makes you realize that we, as a community, need to do something to stop what is going on. It becomes a controversial topic because drugs are often looked at in a demeaning way. People do not want to discuss drugs because it becomes such a sensitive topic. Haring wanted to make known of the issue because he was experiencing it with someone close to him so he saw the damage it was doing.
His works are still loved by many and owned by museums such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Centre Georges Pompidou in France. Although his piece did not end the crack epidemic it made people realize what is going on in the world and that is why it became on the most controversial pieces in history.