Graffiti Charges Against Chalk Artist Dismissed

July 3, 2014 | Bucky Turco

Mark Panzarino is a 42-year-old artist. He draws on the pavement with chalk. He does this out in the open, during the day, while tourists and even some curious New Yorkers watch and take photos. He has done Sandy Hook tributes, dog portraits, and yoga images for a Manhattan spa. He does not condone vandalism. On May 11th Panzarino was arrested in Union Square for vandalism.

“I was working with pastel chalk in Union Square and the park workers complained that the pastel chalks I use were damaging the concrete,” wrote Panzarino. “The NYPD was called, and said it looked like vandalism and took me in at the scene when I told them I was going to continue my work as it is a protected form of free expression. I was charged with criminal mischief and two counts of creating graffiti.” At the time he was working on his “Louis Vuitton is Dead” series (pictured above).

On Monday, all of those charges were dismissed as first reported by Bowery Boogie. “[T]he District Attorney admitted they could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that my creations could be considered graffiti,” explained Panzarino in an update to his site.

In 2010, artist Ellis Gallagher sued the NYPD after he was arrested several times for drawing in chalk. Three years prior to that, city residents collectively gasped in horror, when the Sanitation Department issued a $300 fine to a Park Slope family for chalk art drawn by their 6-year-old daughter on THEIR own front stoop.

(Photos: Mark Panzarino)