Street Art

A (Colorful) History

Graffiti are drawings or writings that are displayed in a public forum (usually a wall)1.  It has been traced back to the days of Pompeii. There, seen through the remains, inscriptions have been found on the walls of the remains of Pompeii. A more “modern” style of graffiti was found in the remains of the ancient Greek city of Ephesus. It is believed that the sketches gave directions to the nearest brothel.2  This idea of communication in the public setting is seen repeated time over time with the graffiti medium.

Graffiti came to America (primarily New York) in the 1970’s.  Unlike most time periods with an increase of a specific art form, graffiti blossomed during a time of low morale. Normally, art blossoms during a time of prosperity and an overall ‘good’ time period. For example, art was a major part of the Renaissance, because of the wealthy city-states within Italy. The wealthy were able to sponsor artists to create and produce art like never before. Graffiti, though, went against the grain. The 1970s were filled with lots of economic and political woes. During this time, there was the oil embargo, the stock market declined, and the emotional backlash of the loss in the Vietnam War. This all followed after a time period filled with the libertarian movement in the 1960s.  With the entire negative feel towards the powerful government that made the decisions, graffiti developed as antiauthoritarian expression. 3


It was New York that became the haven for graffiti artists because of its poor economic condition during that time period.  In a famous headline from the Daily News, the front cover on October 29, 1975 said, “Ford to City: Drop Dead”4.  President Ford at that time rejected any plans to bailout the bankrupt New York City. It was the cheap apartments, open lands, and abandoned buildings that attracted the artists, who were able to use the land around them as their canvas5.

When an art form is born, how do people learn about it?  Originally, the graffiti was used to show dominance of gangs in certain areas. Though, with the influx of artists, notoriety was stressed more. To attain notoriety, communication is required. Using the trains as their canvas, graffiti artists would ‘tag’ (write their names) on trains that would go through the city. Through this medium, such artists as TAKI183 and JULIO became very well known. This express communication also coupled with the evolution of graffiti, as more elaborate and intricate drawings were used for artists to distinguish themselves 6.

With all this said, it makes sense that Graffiti has persisted in an area like Corona. Its low economic status leads the young (and old) artists to resort to the streets in order to express themselves. Not having access to studios and the “fine arts”, people use their surroundings as their canvas. Albeit,  through “tagging”, or “pieces” of Presdient Obama, or just of a possible public scene, the walls have and are being used by the artists as a medium to express themselves.



Common Graffiti Styles Found in Corona

Tag – The root of modern New York graffiti. Tag’s are basically the authors signature. It was the first style used to gain notoriety, and is the most common for beginners7.

Throw-Up –  A form of graffiti  that can be easily done quickly. It is usually done in bubble letters with a multi-colored outline7.

A short video by “queenzmatick” showing different types of graffiti (tag and throw-up)

Piece – Short for a masterpiece, a “Piece” is a complex form of graffiti because of the amount of time usually required for it. It is hard to do illegally because of the much needed time. If completed (illegaly), It usually gives the artists a lot of “Street-cred”. Therefore, they are not as common to be seen This style has been legitimized as an actual form of art as some have actually been commissioned. This form of graffiti are big masterpieces, such as murals on walls.7.


The People’s opinion on the graffiti 

When walking through the community, i stopped to speak to the crossing guard, Officer Jenny. Although she did not want me to take a video of her, we did have a lengthy conversation about the local graffiti. Officer Jenny told me, like everyone, she did not appreciate the “tagging” or “throw-up” in the community. Though the “pieces”, or murals, the graffiti that is much more accepted as art, is usually taken down immediately by the local city government. It is because these “pieces” are usually done on large empty walls, usually belonging to public buildings, that they come down so quickly. The “tagging” and “throw-up” are usually done on private buildings where the landlords could not care less (and its expensive to remove), so the graffiti would remain. According to Officer Jenny, up until recently there was a giant “piece” by the train station of a train and people surrounding it; though the government removed it because it was considering vandalism. She said I would have to come on a lucky day to find a “piece” because of the alacrity that the government removes the artwork. The governments feels that if anything was on their property, it must be removed because of the visitors that can come through because of the close proximity to Citi Field.
Its a shame that the art that can possible raise the community, and add an artistic side to a usually lower economic area, has to be considered vandalism, than actually begin appreciated. Through my interviews, it seemed like the people would actually appreciate if the “pieces” remained rather than be removed. Maybe, the problem is that the government would rather take down what the people like, than the graffiti which people think degrades the community from what it actually is.

The “Freedom” Train

In 1976, on the eve of the bicentennial universe of the USA, several artists grouped together in order to graffiti an entire subway train. The train, the No.7, was stationed in the Corona subway yard.  In one night, the entire train was painted in honor of the big celebration. The train was called, the “Freedom Train”. As it was being pulled out of the yard, a transit authority noticed the colorful train, and stopped its progression to the public.  The train was split up, so that the entire thing would not be seen, rare pictures remain of the masterpiece.  The train was supposed to be a present to the people, a present in honor of the glorious occasion 10.

Spotlight: Maria Castillo AKA Toofly

Toofly, originally born in Ecaudor, moved to Corona when she was 7. Never trained, Mario Castillo is considered a master of art; her specialty? Graffiti. Growing up, she knew she had a passion for the arts, though the textbooks did not excite her. She found her passion through coloring the streets. She found this inspiration one day while traveling on the No.7 train when she was in high school.  Although she knew it was illegal, it could not hold her back. It was the ability to reach the masses and to send a message to those usually forgotten about that she found her calling in the streets. She went on to study at the School of Visual Arts, though it was  the streets that taught her the most.

Toofly works very hard to give back to the community and to work as a role model to those that are looking for guidance. She works with many organizations to promote the importance of art in schools, education, and youth empowerment such as,  Directions For Our Youth, an organization that asks black and Hispanic professionals to give presentations to inspire students to pursue a higher education; ArtsConnection, a nonprofit that promotes art in schools; Sista 2 Sista, a Muslim support organization; and The Hip-Hop Association, a community group that focuses on media, technology, resources, social entrepreneurship and leadership development All her hard work and dedication paid off when she was inducted to the Graffiti Hall of Fame in 2003 11.


To learn more about Toofly, check out her website, 

To see an album of her work, click


  1. Cesar Lewishon, Street Art: The Graffiti Revolution
  2. Graffiti: Art through Vandalism, “Uses,”
  3. Jeffeey Deitch , Art in The Streets, New York, NY, Skira Rizolli Publications, 2011, 10
  4. Blau, Reuven. “FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD: President’s snub inspired, not discouraged, ex-Gov. Hugh Carey .” Daily News, sec. News, August 08, 2011.
  5. Jeffeey Deitch , Art in The Streets, New York, NY: Skira Rizolli Publications, 2011, 17
  6. Eric Felisbret, Graffiti New York, New York, NY, Abrams, 2009, 326-328
  7. Jeffeey Deitch , Art in The Streets, , (New York, NY: Skira Rizolli Publications, 2011), 32-33
  8. Jeffeey Deitch , Art in The Streets, , (New York, NY: Skira Rizolli Publications, 2011), 32-33
  9. Jeffeey Deitch , Art in The Streets, , (New York, NY: Skira Rizolli Publications, 2011), 32-33
  10. Eric Felisbret, Graffiti New York, (New York, NY: Abrams, 2009), 276.
  11.  Aviles, Priscilla. “Corona artist making name as graffiti queen .” Times Ledger, , sec. Q Guides: Arts & Entertainment, June 17, 2008.

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