Graffiti Crackdown Reflects Social Tensions In Fractured East End

Feb 4, 2016

The arrest of Max Gonzales, a 22-year-old Carnegie Mellon University student identified by the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Graffiti Squad as "number one on the Squad's list of most wanted offenders," has sparked sometimes contentious discussions about vandalism, art and community identity in a changing city.

"In the '90s, when everything was tagged up around here ... no one cared. But now that we have all this new development, people are starting to care."

Known to police by the tag "Gem," among others, Gonzales is also known in the local arts community as a budding muralist. 

Painter D.S. Kinsel  worked with Gonzales through the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and BOOM Concepts, the arts incubator and gallery space he co-founded in Garfield.   

D.S. Kinsel speaks with 90.5 WESA's Josh Raulerson

In the public response to Gonzales's arrest, Kinsel said he sees a reflection of social divisions at work in the East End neighborhoods, where Gem left his mark.

This story includes music by Pittsburgh rapper Khari Mosley.