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Making one's mark on the city Previous | Next

One of the ways for a child to lay claim to the environment is to write, carve, or paint a name on it. A logical progression leads from the stick, which enabled the child to draw in the dirt; to the knife, with which one could carve one’s name on a tree or a school desk; to chalk, with which to put a name on a wall or a street; to a can of spray paint with which to make a mark on a subway car. From a child’s perspective, placing one’s name on any object confers a kind of ownership, and this is important for a child who may own very little except for a name.

Boy using spray paint on subway car
1982: Boy painting on a train in the yards, South Bronx
(Photo copyright ©1982 Martha Cooper, used with permission)

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Taken from City Play, copyright ©1990. Used with permission by

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