Modern graffiti art has as its origins in the wall writing that emerged in U.S. cities in the late 1960s as a way for kids to mark territory or “turf” and to communicate with friends and enemies. Names and “tags” quickly developed into bubble letters and style wars. Some perpetrators—typically this was not a legal activity—became known beyond their own neighborhoods for extraordinary feats of creation and unique forms of expression.

As the decades unfolded, graffiti evolved into murals, and from being perceived as vandalism to being accepted as art. Outstanding “writers” no longer had to “get-up” on walls under cover of darkness; instead, they were given walls by building owners who became patrons. Some artists—such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, or Christopher “Daze” Ellis, whose painting The 7 Yard, (2011) is on view in MAG’s Hawks Gallery—made the transition from the wall to the canvas, and from the streets to the gallery.


Rochester has its own graffiti legends, none more esteemed than the collective FUA (pronounced “fwah”) KREW. Though many members of FUA KREW have dispersed over the years, becoming ambassadors for Rochester and building their international recognition, our city remains the center of their work. The year 2019 marked the 30th anniversary of FUA. At the June 13th “Cocktails with Creatives” event at MAG, Mayor Lovely Warren recognized the KREW and their many contributions to art, culture, and education in Rochester.

MAG is proud to honor FUA with this mural for the Hurlbut Gallery. Inspired by Rochester and its graffiti scene, the mural is anchored by “tags” (the stylized names of individual FUA KREW artists) as it recreates a key local site of this activity: the abandoned Rochester subway tunnel (active from 1927‒56) along South Avenue near Capron Street. There one can see years upon years of graffiti. Although access to the tunnel was closed in 2017 with the new development along South Avenue, FUA’s installation for MAG recreates and celebrates this historic Rochester graffiti location.