Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Dr. Lucius Hallett IV

Second Advisor

Dr. Gregory Veeck, PhD

Third Advisor

Dr. Benjamin Ofori-Amoah, PhD

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Jesse Smith, PhD


Graffiti, street art, deviance fluidity, urban landscape, placemaking

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Graffiti is recognized as an illegal deviant act. Sociologically, deviance is defined by the audience perceiving the act, rather than inherent in the act itself. In this context, deviance is subjective and fluid. This paper explores the spectrum of graffiti from criminal vandalism to celebrated art form in the context of its placement on the urban landscape. The fluidity of deviance is reflected in the concentration of different types of graffiti in different locations. The spatial distribution of graffiti writing, street art, and the equally illegal guerrilla marketing stickers, which mimic graffiti placement and street art styles, were collected in two gentrifying neighborhood commercial districts in the southeast quadrant of Grand Rapids, MI. Data of vandalism incidents were collected in 2014 and 2017 using a GPS device and analyzed using ArcGIS. The character of the neighborhoods was further explored through fieldwork. The analysis of neighborhood characteristics and graffiti location and type over time is used to illustrate how graffiti and deviance are delineated. Graffiti writers were interviewed to assess perspectives on urban space. Results indicate graffiti and street art to be non-normative methods of placemaking.