Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bonsai Rock Graffiti Cleanup

Bonsai rock is one of Lake Tahoe's most famous photography sites Full cleanup gallery  
Famous Lake Tahoe photography site Bonsai Rock got tagged with about 50 sprayed on graffiti over Labor Day weekend 2013.  I went out to a graffiti cleanup event at Bonsai beach organized by Dylan Eichenberg and People of Tahoe, Inc.

As Dylan Eichenberg said: "I've been helping to organize this graffiti cleanup effort.  I first saw the pictures two weeks ago, and I came down to the beach because a good friend of mine, Cody Lieberman with People of Tahoe company organized the first graffiti beach cleanup.  We decided that day that we couldn't really do as much as we wanted to, so we decided that we really needed to take some action and get the community together to clean up this unique area.

So, what we did is that first we talked to the state parks, the League to Save Lake Tahoe, the US Forest service, the TRPA, and a bunch of important organizations at Lake Tahoe that deal with environmental cleanup; and we decided that, you know, this is something that we could totally take on. We're trying to get as much of this graffitti as possible.  They've tagged over 50 rocks out there.  You may have seen the pictures on Facebook, and they don't even come close to what's out there.  So, it's gonna take a lot of us and we're gonna get it, hopefully, pretty much done today.  State parks won't be able to get it until July so what we're doing here is really gonna make a big difference."

We worked hard scrubbing all day with wire brushes, blowtorches, and graffiti remover.  The rock I was scrubbing was so thick with paint there were archeological layers: scrape off the silver and there's black underneath, scrape off the black and there's blue and gold underneath... Despite two people scrubbing, I never did get all the way down to bedrock on the rock pictured above.  Luckily most of the rocks weren't as heavily covered as this one as you can see:

Photos from the Adopt Bonsai Beach group

Graffiti before

After cleanup

Regarding the cleanup product, Cody Liberman, co-owner of People of Tahoe said: 

"The product we've been using out here is this product called Motsenbocker's Lift Off.  It's actually an environmentally friendly based cleanup.  It's a solution that breaks down spraypaint as well as cleaning it up, but it's still environmentally friendly.  You know, it doesn't polute the lake, it's not harmfull, and so far it's been the only solution.  We've tried many things, we've done scrub brushed, we've taken torches to try to change the effect of the paint and nothing has worked as well.  

So, we're out here, we've got a bunch of people we've gathered up.  The pictures have gone viral, and, like I've said you can see behind us that we're cleaning up, and it's everywhere.  

And I'm with People of Tahoe.  I'm the owner, I'm the co-owner and we've contributed a bunch of stuff.  You know,we've brought a bunch of stuff and we've reached out to Meeks Hardware in South Lake Tahoe and they've donated all kinds of Motsenbocker product that's cleaning up for us.  Truckee hardware as well as Incline has donated Motsenbocker as well as buckets and brushes.  We actually had a local Safeway that's donated some food out here for us.  And, y'know, we've reached out and tried hard and we've spent some money on the company, with the company money and it's worked out.  We're just reaching out and trying to get a good cause going."

The graffiti has been particularly rough on local photography tourisim.  "Bonsai beach is one of the main places that photographers come to Lake Tahoe to make their images." said North Tahoe area photographer Martin Gollery   "This is a well known and famous and well loves area for Lake Tahoe area photographers, and this is one of the places where we bring people when other photographers come from elsewhere to visit Lake Tahoe and want to see a special location.  And so, for us as photographers, this has been a real travesty because it spoils our images and it spoils what we want to show to people that visit."

My Message to Potential Taggers:

And finally, a message for those of you who are aspiring graffiti artists.  Though it is terrible to do graffitti on nature, there is a place for graffiti in society and if you are a grafitti artist in the Lake Tahoe area there is a great non-profit called Sphere of Influence.  (Contact them on facebook) Sphere of Influence can find you legit places to put up your art where you can do graffiti and get away with it and know that your art is going to be standing for years and years with nobody scrubbing it off.  So, PLEASE, graffiti artists, don't tag on nature.  Perfect your art on plywood at home and then call Sphere of Influence and they will give you a lightbox to decorate the way you want. It's really cool.

By the way,  We really do have a good street art scene in South Lake Tahoe.  Don't let the Bonsai rock graffiti fool you, graffiti can be right in the right places. Check out my interactive walking tour of South Lake Tahoe Street Art to see some of the legit art you can see there.

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