We went underground to explore Concord’s living graffiti ecosystem

RSA is also responsible for these baby stencils.
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One of RSA 634:2’s signature stickers, dubbed “Mr. Up To No Good,” overlooks the city.

Cruise around Concord in a vehicle and you won't see a lot of graffiti. Most visible spots either remain untouched or show the tell-tale gray or white swatches of covered-over spraypaint. But if you hit the streets on foot, roaming the narrow alleys or rusted-out trainyards, the walls are alive with an ever-changing landscape of painted pictures, messages and in the eyes of some artists, revolution.

"My aim is to be revolutionary with my actions and to create something beautiful," a local street artist who asked to be referred to by his alias "RSA 634:2," said. "(Street art) is like a Molotov cocktail. It's your chance to scream out loud and say 'I don't like this!' "

Artists like Banksy and Shepard Fairey have received international reknown for their irreverant, satirical street art. Working around existing, manmade installations like street signs, they use evocative imagery to break people out of their workaday routines and make them think differently. RSA painted himself with the same brush.

"No one likes their everyday environment," RSA said. "I'd like to make a mockery of it, make someone raise their eyebrow."

RSA has plastered his stickers and sprayed his stencils all over the city, evading the police in what he calls "an ultimate cat and mouse game." And it's not just about the joy of creation either - he gets a rush from the risk of getting caught.

"It's definitely a fetish," RSA said. "Art is an addiction, like anything else."

After a night of successful street art, writers play the waiting game. Once a piece is on the radar - especially if it's in a prominent location - it's probably going to be covered back up. Some pieces roll for less than a day before getting covered over. But while it may be tough to see one's artwork whitewashed over, RSA said that it's all in the game.

"It's an ecosystem. When the city covers it up, we're just gonna paint back over them again. If you burn a forest down, it's gonna grow back. All they're doing is giving us a dope background."

For every street artist whose goal is beautifying the city and opening some eyes, there seems to be at least one who uses the medium to hurt. Vandals broke into a Donavan Street building in March and painted graffiti that caused significant damage, and the Durgin Street parking garage was tagged in January. RSA stressed that this type of graffiti is not what he - or any true artist - should be doing.

"It's always the destructive, hateful graffiti that makes the news," RSA said. "That kind of stuff is a big reason why I do what I do. To those that hit the streets, or want to, it is important to work against those with amateur ways that only create dramatic violence and put out red flags that end up blowing up our fields of work. Make art, not a mess."

Nonetheless, RSA promises that his brand of revolution will continue.

"I'm not gonna stop what I'm doing," RSA said. "It's kind of like, Rosa Parks got arrested for the right reasons. I would have no problem going to jail for over five years for this. It's the first thing I've really felt this passionate about."


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