In Lake Worth, where the prevalence of gang graffiti motivated city commissioners to create an anti-spray paint ordinance in 2010, artist/business owner Adolphe Latorre has his work cut out for him.
Latorre, better known by his artist name, H20, has been practicing graffiti art for 31 years. As such, he's long accustomed to people's misgivings about graffiti. His art supply store/gallery, Graffiti Iconz, is among the outlets in South Florida that is helping to legitimize the art form, beyond the borders of Miami's Wynwood, where street art is venerated and given ample space.
Graffiti Iconz sells graffiti supplies in addition to other artist materials. The space is home to a gallery where fledgling artists of all ages can create on-site works with guidance from Latorre and other established artists.
"We've had a great response from the kids," Latorre, 46, said.
In 2010, Lake Worth city commissioners passed an anti-graffiti ordinance that outlines the legal sale and display of spray paint. The rule -- a response to illegal gang graffiti -- prohibits the sale of spray paint to those younger than 18 years and dictates how the products must be displayed. (Read more about the law in this 2010 Palm Beach Post story.)
Latorre said he observes the ordinance and works hard to ensure his store is part of the solution, not the problem. No one under 18 leaves the store with spray paint and aspiring artists can use a designated space to explore the medium and other arts, like painting and drawing.
"You come up and down the street where my store is, and there is no illegal graffiti," he said. "I say, 'I've given you a legal place; an outlet. If you paint on other people's property, you'll cause a headache.' I've never had an issue or anyone complaining."
Latorre is originally from New York, where he taught art and mentored young artists. He has been living in Florida for 14 years and ran a similar store in Orlando for three years before he moved to Palm Beach County. His Lake Worth location has been open for about seven months, and he said word-of-mouth has been booming.
Among his proposed projects is one that would mirror a program in New York City that works as a sort of graffiti rehab. Instead of jailing young people who are caught illegally painting public or private property, artists would work with them to "teach them how to do it in a legit way." The program would educate young offenders on how to hone their craft and display their works for sale.
After years of showing in galleries and working as a professional artist, Latorre said he wants to share that experience with the next generation and to help foster the growing South Florida graffiti art movement. He's almost evangelical when talking about "the only movement in the history of art that can be found on every continent" and said he's prepared to offer a history lesson on the medium for anyone who visits his store.
"People are very confused about graffiti art," he said. "They come into my shop and see some true graffiti; it's incredible."
Graffiti Iconz store and gallery is located at 3330 2nd Ave. N. in Lake Worth. Call 888-475-0346.