"It is my desire to provide these artists a legal outlet to display their artwork as any other artists on canvas," Kristal Petruzzi said.

CRESTVIEW — A Crestview business owner is securing funds to support local street artists with a graffiti gallery.

Kristal Petruzzi of Happy Lark Art Studio said the gallery will be a freestanding wall of murals located on the side and back yards of the studio lot so passersby, whether on foot or in a vehicle, can see them.


Petruzzi said some of the graffiti on buildings around the city "is not indicative of gang signs, and it is sad that it could so loosely be interpreted as so ... I lived and taught in Atlanta and Jacksonville and am very versed in the art of graffiti, as well as gangs. Rarely do these two go together."

"I think we owe it our young people to encourage their voice in an artistic manner that is not demonized as criminal, but instead looked at and valued when it is aesthetically pleasing and the attempt is to convey emotion through their visual art," the Crestview native said.

The art wall she is building will give people a chance to view graffiti and street art in an artistic sense instead of criminal one. It is also an extension of the street art she currently features on the studio's exterior walls, which she primed and prepared specifically for that purpose. It displays street graffiti free of charge for artists who created it, and is almost complete.

"It is my desire to provide these artists a legal outlet to display their artwork as any other artists on canvas," Petruzzi said.

Photos of graffiti on local buildings have raised concerns on social media, particularly regarding whether gangs were responsible.

"The art represented by the young artists showed beauty, as (they were) not 'tagging,'" Petruzzi said. "Tagging is quickly writing single letters. The various artwork shown was actually "throw ups," or small pieces, which means the artist took time, care, and utilized artistic elements to convey a sense of artistic value. Each artist who chooses to create their art in a public forum such as abandoned buildings (has) different reasons, but many artists are not interested in vandalism.

"Vandalism would be damage to the property, tagging property as territory or defacing public spaces with hate language … gang related icons or gang names," she said.


Funds for the Graffiti Gallery go toward high-quality primers and paints for artists; wooden posts and inset panels for murals; maintenance, repair and upkeep.

Artists will have a panel and it will be up to them to decide when to replace their art, Petruzzi said, adding, "Usually there is a street code of honor among graffiti artists. If it is old, fading, or poor quality, it's free game to cover up. High quality, vibrant work is usually honored and left in the 'hall of fame.'"

Petruzzi said many U.S. cities and businesses with artistic communities commission street artists to paint outdoor murals; St. Petersburg is one example. Public donations support its murals, which draw lots of visitors and publicity.

Donations toward the $5,000 goal are tax deductible. Donors may call 603-2475, mail or drop off contributions at 551 S. Main St., or visit http://www.happylarkartstudio.com.