Graffiti ‘ghost’ artist arrested – give us your input on the punishment!

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

On Mar. 18, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office arrested artist Kevin “Chip” Southworth as the man behind the utility box graffiti done in the fashion of the former New York artist Keith Haring. Southworth signed his work as KHG or Keith Haring’s Ghost.

A petition being circulated on by graphic/environmental designer Stacey Harper asks that Southworth be released without fines or jail time. His artwork on 11 utility boxes around the city has purportedly resulted in more than $1,100 in damages. The local artist could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
“After living in Jacksonville for more than 10 years, I consistently found myself in conversations discussing Jacksonville’s lack of culture, being just ordinary and what can we do as artists to make it more exciting,” Harper said. “Many of us from the art community have been so excited about seeing Chip bring Keith Haring back to life in San Marco, taking away an ugly eye sore to replace with such positive inspiration artwork from the past.”

According to his attorney John Phillips, Southworth, 42, is a lifelong resident of Jacksonville, a veteran of the U.S. Navy Presidential Guard and very active in the San Marco community. He has worked with the Chamber, the City Council and the Cultural Council regarding his art. Some of his art is currently hanging in the Cummer Museum and he was recently commissioned by the City of Jacksonville to paint a portrait. The online petition also states that Southworth’s wife is undergoing treatment for breast cancer and requests that the City instead commission Southworth to repaint all of the silver utility boxes around town to help pay for his wife’s treatments.

City officials have stated that the dark colors Southworth used on the boxes can increase the temperature inside and cause equipment failures. City workers have been repainting the boxes with two coats of an aluminum colored paint at a cost of $110 per box.

What do you think?
Art or graffiti? Does the punishment fit the crime or should Chip Southworth be commissioned to continue his work (using appropriate paint colors to avoid damage)? Let us know what you think! Send your thoughts via email to [email protected]

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