New neighbor at W. 45th and Detroit

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Tue, 07/03/2007 - 18:38.

I noticed, the other morning, that overnight a new tag had popped up on dozens of buildings from the corner of W. 45th and Dertoit west. The tag is "Sexy Hek", and "Hek", for short, and has no real creative value... just someone shouting out. What does it mean, and why there and that night?

The spot, across from the Harp and Max Hayes Vocational School, is the location of the July 3, 2007 header of the Day, linked below in large format.

So is there a new gang in the area - a whore or drug dealer marking territory - a bored high school kid living around the corner?


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Look for the bandanas in their pockets, Norm.  The kids are also wearing long black t-shirts this year.  It's so pathetic and childish.  Afterall, they are just kids trying to assert their power.  Don't let them bother you.  It's grade school all over.   The suburban kids have their own way of bullying, but it usually just affects their peers.  In the city, it affects all of us, because some of the kids don't have parents to smack them upside the head or hold back their allowance.

flip side

The flip side of the equation is these kids understand that they have power and that they can change things.  Sometimes, it produces ART.

Not great art...

There seems to be more great aerosol art around town than ever, and there are lots of memorial tags R.I.P. on Lakeview - but this is something very different. It could be gang but it seems more silly and punkish. There don't seem to be any gang bangers right around here - lots of Max Hayes kids walking around but they seem like good kids - some misc. public walk through between bus lines - some homeless types wander around from social service to social service - and Ohio City people of every type and age walk around for all sorts of reasons. It is pretty active, so I was surprised to suddenly see so many tags. Probably did it in a few minutes - may have had someone waiting in a car - may not have anything to do with my neighborhood. But when I told Jon Eckerle about it he said if that happens in Lakewood the city will help cover the costs to get it removed - they want these things gone within hours or days - and that is probably the best approach to tags.

On the other hand, art should have designated zones. I'd like to see the entire Red Line designated the world's largest museum with every surface along the route available to artists of every type to create and install work, from aerosol to sculpture to projection and light sculpture to dance and performance. Imagine if every trip on the rapid was an artistic experience - you saw something new. Imagine riding the RTA just to see the art - and people from Japan coming to do it. Very easy to accomplish.

As for this site - I really love it - the barren lot, boarded up gas station - really clean line and stark - with the city watertower and skyline in the distance. The tags make it a really good shoot. Imagine a surface garden and City Fresh outlet here - all green - it would transform the corner and surrounding blocks. The blight is not the tage but the board-up by the owner. Such vacant property is like a cancer.

Disrupt IT

Bored suburban kids

Could have been bored suburban kids.  He is an article from the Plain Dealer from May 2006.  When asked why he did it, the kid told police he did it because "it's a run-down, ghetto city, so who cares."  When I see board-ups, I have to agree.

Friends from Chicago told me that their city has an aggressive clean-up of tags program.  The thrill wears off quickly after two-or-three erasures.  I know that the Temple of Lost Love was painted over in the Flats, which was definitely not graffiti art that needed to be cleaned up in this city.  I will call the Mayor's Action line on Monday to see how one gets tags removed???


A rail ride art viewing is a money making idea for the RTA.  There would be visitors from Japan and Europe, etc.   I see one serious problem with the concept - safety.  Trains and pedestrians don't mix well and the RTA insurers would freak if it was open season for artists under track side bridges and on track side retaining walls, though I agree that transportation structures – eg concrete walls - should be open season to paint.

Here's a photo I took on June 1, 2003 along the Doan Brook above MLK in Cleveland, Ohio.  It was breathtaking being along the stream with the dappled sunshine on the phenomenally inspired palette.


Also, Graffiti artists value their surreptitiousness and anonymity – which is a cool distinction from conventional artists who suck up their public image publicity.


Perhaps the RTA could designate certain times of a certain weekly or monthly night when it would be safe (no trains) and acceptable for artists to enter onto the Right Of Way – at the risk of the artist –


There is still the problem that the RTA tracks run parallel with the CSX tracks and with Norfolk Southern tracks, both of  which are active 24/7. 


I don’t really see a way that there can be any “acceptable” way for graffiti to get done along the RR.   Perhaps the best way is the present way of “don’t ask, don’t tell”.  And - both the graffiti maker and graffiti recording photographer - watch your ass while you’re on the job!  You often can’t hear the trains coming…