- Associated Press - Saturday, February 1, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - Artist Rajan Sedalia wants graffiti appreciated for what it is: letters and colors on a wall.

In that spirit, Sedalia is offering classes on graffiti in Brookland, a neighborhood defining itself as an artistic hub in the District of Columbia.

“This particular neighborhood has a lot of historical graffiti in it, and as new things pop up and buildings are torn down, there are new areas that are opened up,” he said. “It’s kind of interesting to tear back the nooks and crannies of the neighborhood. That’s what I’m planning on doing with this class. (I want) to provide a glimpse into this underworld, the places where people walk, because a lot of these places are kind of being destroyed.”

The first class begins in March and will expose students to the tools of the trade as well as the history of the art form.

For Sedalia, these courses are about acceptance of stigmatized graffiti as much as instruction.

“There are places that are accepting of graffiti and open to graffiti,” Sedalia said. “If we had a chance to be in those cities or those particular areas, it’s not a dangerous place. It’s actually a very colorful, lively place where it’s open to people to express yourselves. That’s what it’s about - expressing yourself.”

Sedalia says the class isn’t in retaliation to the recent development or changing demographics in Washington. Instead, it’s about the fun of the art and sharing the joy he experiences with others in his community. While many see walls covered in graffiti as an affront to the community, Sedalia says it’s all about perspective.

He sees the new blank walls as an unpainted canvas that can be transformed into an inspiration for everyone.

“I just feel like there’s a happy medium between having something that’s open to the public, where people can paint, and having something that doesn’t offend,” Sedalia said.

More importantly for potential students, Sedalia says the classes will afford budding artists the opportunity to tag a wall - a portable wall.

Much of the work showcased in Sedalia’s Brookland loft is rooted firmly in graffiti and demonstrates how the controversial artwork can define space in a positive way.

“It is just saying, ‘It’s OK to express yourself.’ And you don’t have to have a contract, or a proposal or a pile of paperwork to tell you that,” he said. “You don’t have to know somebody that has the say so to let you do it. You can do it and it’s OK. It’s safe, it’s fine, it’s harmless.”

The course will cost $49 and online registration is available.

A sampling of Sedalia’s work can be found on his website.

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