Caleb Neelon’s spring NEA keynote

By gkur


I attended the spring New England Archivists conference on Friday 4/1. Here is a summary of thoughts from the keynote address by Caleb Neelon.

I was looking forward to hearing Caleb Neelon speak to a room of archivists. First off because I’m familiar with and excited about his mural work in Fitchburg, MA (my hometown!) and second because I was curious what an outsider to the archives field would bring to an archival conference.

Caleb Neelon, Fitchburg mural, 2014 (image from Neelon’s website)

How did a graffiti/street artist become a keynote speaker at an archivists conference? I assume it has to do with the younger generation leading the spring conference programming committee.

How would he relate to archivists? Well, he focused on the sharing of information among graffiti artists in the 1990s. And he talked about gathering primary sources from graffiti artists for the purpose of writing the book The History of American Graffiti. Both of these activities are of interest to archivists because it explains how a group networked and how the primary sources from that group were created, shared, saved, and eventually published.

Like many networks of artists, hobbyists, collectors, musicians, and even professional groups, the graffiti artists Neelon talked about were connected through a shared activity and then a sharing of information about that activity. Neelon explained that every group of young graffiti artist wannabes in the 1990s read the same 3 books – some of the only sources with published images of graffiti – and they all shared information with other graffiti artists in other locales through zines, that got traded and mailed around the world. It was a network of like-minded, creative, and young individuals writing about, and taking pictures of, their work and the
Source: Greta Suiter  

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