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Urban Art (Street Art)

Updated on January 21, 2015
Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa has a B.A. in Fine Arts from Montclair State University and certification to teach all art subjects in K-12.

Street Art (Urban Art)

Street art—urban art—is an art form that developed in the streets, in the neighborhoods. It is usually created clandestinely, often illegally, and is not sanctioned by the entities on whose buildings, streets, walls, fences, or other objects it appears.

Street art can include graffiti, but it is not the territorial type of graffiti which is spray painted by gangs as an act of vandalism, as a way of marking their turf.

There are a number of types of art which fall into the street art category, among them guerrilla art, stencil graffiti, traditional graffiti, wheatpasting, skatepark graffiti, and refrigerator graffiti.

This graffiti in Olinda, Pernambuco, Brazil was photographed by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen from Norway on March 10, 2008.
This graffiti in Olinda, Pernambuco, Brazil was photographed by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen from Norway on March 10, 2008. | Source

Have you ever done an installiation of guerrilla art which you created?

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Guerrilla Art

Guerrilla artists are very sneaky people. Usually at night, when it is likely there won’t be any witnesses, they deposit in a public place a series of objects, a piece of sculpture, a colorfully-decorated old car or whatever object with which they’ve done something creative. Sometimes guerrilla art is used to make a political statement, but most of the time it’s created just for fun.

When I was in college, majoring in Fine Arts, I spray painted an old bicycle copper and aluminum. I took a pair of jeans and a denim shirt, stuffed them with newspaper, wired them together, and then wired them onto the bicycle. I drove onto the campus in the middle of the night and placed my creation on one of the paths leading to the building in which the painting and sculpture classes were taught.

John Feckner used stencils to apply graffiti lettering to this abandoned truck in 1978.
John Feckner used stencils to apply graffiti lettering to this abandoned truck in 1978. | Source

Stencil Graffiti

Artists who create stencil graffiti usually want to repeat a word, a phrase, a message in several locations. Using cardboard, they create a stencil of what they want to say and then, at a time when there will be as few witnesses as possible, they use spray paint to create their sign. Freeway (highway) overpasses are popular locations for stencil graffiti.

Have you ever clandestinely drawn or spray painted a piece of non-gang related graffiti art?

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Traditional Graffiti

Traditional graffiti—as opposed to gang or turf graffiti—began as art that is primarily letter-based. Letters were drawn or spray painted clandestinely on buildings, benches, lampposts, walls, streets, sidewalks (pavement), subway (local train) cars in the United States, and a number of other objects. These letters, words, phrases, and paragraphs were frequently quite artistic and often very elaborate.

Many graffiti artists decided that letter-based graphics weren’t enough, so they expanded their portfolio to include drawings, some of which were just scribbles, but many of which were quite elaborate. Marking pens, available in a wide variety of colors, are a preferred graffiti creation tool. Spray paint is also a popular medium, but it takes a more skilled graffiti artist to execute a drawing by spraying color onto a surface.

This wheatpasted poster of a turtle was photographed in the SoHo area of New York City on September 3, 2005.
This wheatpasted poster of a turtle was photographed in the SoHo area of New York City on September 3, 2005. | Source

Wheatpasting

Similar to wallpaper paste, wheatpaste is made by mixing vegetable starch (wheat flour or rice flour, for example) and water. The resultant glue-like mixture is used for adhering posters and other papers to outdoor surfaces.

The pasting of paper signs, slogans, drawings, and posters onto these outdoor surfaces is known as wheatpasting.

Skatepark Graffiti

Skatepark graffiti is an art form that developed in public skateboard parks around the world. Young people, primarily in their teens, congregate in the parks, which are built by cities in lower-income neighborhoods—these neighborhoods are chosen because the land is usually less costly. The young people rant, discuss, complain, talk, laugh, and express themselves by drawing and spray painting on the slanted and curved concrete surfaces and walls within the skatepark. They also create unofficial skateparks in concrete drainage ditches or other locations which have curved surfaces amenable to the use of a skateboard.

Ben Record photographed this refrigerator on October 18, 2005.
Ben Record photographed this refrigerator on October 18, 2005. | Source

Refrigerator Graffiti

Hurricane Katrina, one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States, occurred in the summer of 2005. More than 1800 people died as a result of the hurricane and the flooding which followed. Approximately 80% of the city of New Orleans, Louisiana and the neighboring parishes (counties) were flooded.

Due to the flooding and lack of electrical power, the contents of countless refrigerators become toxic. Bacterial growth created serious health hazards.

Many people decorated the exteriors of their refrigerators with graffiti and other embellishments as the appliances awaited eventual trash pickup. The owners of the refrigerator seen on the right considered shipping their refrigerator to the then-president of the United States instead of having their garbage disposal company haul it away.

Should legal graffiti walls in skateparks be the norm rather than the exception?

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Legality

Laws regarding clandestine street art and graffiti differ throughout the world. A few cities have designated certain walls with their skateparks as being legal graffiti walls.

In California, it is illegal for anyone to sell or give a can of spray paint to another person without first asking to see photo identifcation which indicates that the person is at leat 18 years old. There is an exception in the law—a parent or legal guardian of someone under the age of 18 can sell or give a can of spray paint to that person.

Also in California, all stores selling spray paint must post signs with letters at least 3/8-inch high stating that anyone who defaces property with spray paint is guilty of vandalism, and that this act is punishable by a fine, imprisonment, or both.

I worked in an arts and craft store in California for a number of years. The spray paint was locked inside a wire mesh cage. The sign on the front of the wire cage was in bold black letters much higher than 3/8-inch.

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    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 2 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Audrey,

      Thanks for returning to read my article another time. I appreciate your support of my writing.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 2 years ago from California

      Came back to read about this again! What a great hub!

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 2 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      No and I think you can learn a lot about a culture through urban art. Plus it is a way for people to express themselves in a positive manner.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 2 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Paula,

      Thanks for reading my article and posting your comment. I'm glad that urban art is being separated from graffiti. The two are not the same.

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 2 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Urban art is a relatively new phenomenon because it all used to be considered garbage or graffiti (with a bad connotation). Enjoyed this.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Devika (DDE),

      Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. Do you see a lot of graffiti in Croatia? Did you see a lot when you were living in South Africa?

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      John (Jodah),

      Thanks for reading my article and commenting in it. I agree with you about there being both good and bad graffiti.

      Some graffiti is art. That's why it is referred to as "street art" or "urban art."

      I've seen spray paintings created by street gangs in both New York and Los Angeles. Most of that graffiti is vandalism.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Graffiti is beautiful and hopeful to many individuals. You have created an interesting and thoughtful hub on this topic. Voted up and useful.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Very interesting article Daisy. My sons were skateboarders so I have seen a lot of skatepark graffiti in my time. There is good and bad graffiti.....some by true artists like Banksy. I had never heard of refrigerator graffiti, that was understandable given the circumstances that inspired it. Voted up.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Saleem,

      Thanks very much for reading my article and posting your comment. I wasn't aware of many of the forms of graffiti until I began doing the research for my article.

      My four-year degree is in Fine Arts, and I'm certified to teach all art subjects to five-year-olds through eighteen-year-olds. The reaction to graffiti among my professors at the university was mixed, covering like, neutral, and greatly dislike.

      I judge each piece of graffiti I see on its individual merits, rather than viewing the genre collectively. The piece from Brazil that I showcased in this article is among the best pieces of graffiti I have ever seen.

    • profile image

      Saleem Khan 4 years ago

      Thank you Daisy, I knew a bit about Graffiti Art, but you have written so elaborately, that even an unaware person to this art can get the better understanding about Graffiti, for instance, I didn't know the forms of this art, reading through your article, now I know, which form I like the most and that is Traditional Graffiti, I love this art and I am firm believer of freedom, but with some controls, otherwise it is going to be a messy urban looks.

      Thank you once again for such a lovely piece, entertaining as well as educating.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Mary (mary615),

      Thanks for visiting again and adding your anecdote. Thanks, too, for sharing my Article.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      You know I love to paint! I always say if something is still for just a little while, I will paint something on it. I never did any street art, I paint fences and backyard sheds for my friends who want them decorated. I just saw where you asked me a question about our school that allowed art in the hallways. Sorry I never answered.

      We were allowed to paint tasteful(?) scenes that pertained to learning, i.e. outside the Library we painted rows of books and so on.

      I'm resharing this.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Dianna (teaches12345),

      Thanks for visiting again. There are galleries devoted to graffiti. Since that is the case, and galleries are a business venture, it would seem there are many people who consider the works to be art.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Love the article. I have never drawn graffiti anywhere, but I have some seen some very interesting ones around this city. Great video and love the music you added.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Vinaya,

      Thanks for reading my article and posting your insightful comment. Speaking as someone who is certified to art in Kindergarten through the 12th grade (5-year-olds through 18-year-olds), some urban art / street art / graffiti that I have seen was created by gifted artists. Other pieces are not worth viewing or commenting upon.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

      According to American sociologist James Q. Wilson, creating graffiti is quality-of-life crimes, and apathy to such victimless crimes shows disorder is being tolerated, and foretells about serious crimes.

      But I don't by Wilson's Broken Theory. I think graffiti is an art and Banksy is modern day Picasso.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Michelle (midget38).

      Thanks for reading my article and posting your comment. I appreciate your continued support of my writing.

      Some urban artists (graffiti artists) are quite talented. There are several galleries which specialize in graffiti art.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      This hub shows that many people out there are talented artists! Thanks for sharing them with the world, Daisy!

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Mike,

      Thanks for viewing my video, reading my article, and commenting. I'm glad you liked the music I used for the video. The a cappella group is called "Straight No Chaser." I've used their music in a few of my videos.

      Is there a lot of urban art in London? There's quite a bit in Los Angeles, both the artwork and gang variety. Some of the artwork is surprisingly good. The artists are very talented.

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 4 years ago from London

      Quite cool hub (I love the song of the video!). For sure, urban art is one of the most appealing things i can think of for a big city. It brings colors and it brings creative imagination right... next to us!

      Voted up and shared!

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Audrey (AudreyHowitt),

      It's nice to "see" you again. Thanks for viewing my video and reading my article. In many cases, graffiti...the "artwork" variety...improves the look of the surface on which it is painted or sprayed.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Loved this! Graffiti is a wonderful art form when it isn't being used in a destructive way!

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Audrey (vocalcoach),

      Thanks for viewing my video, reading my article, commenting in it, and also sharing it.

      Some of the graffiti artists are very gifted. I don't mind seeing "artwork," but gang graffiti is another story. When I worked for the opera company, there was new gang graffiti on the building nearly every morning when I arrived at work.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Julie (Jools99),

      Thanks for viewing my video, reading my article, and commenting. Thanks, too, for sharing and pinning my Hub.

      The Hub title was another of the Exclusives. When I found the title listed, I had to reseach and write the article! I was surprised to find that so many images had been uploaded to Wikimedia Commons.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 4 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      What a beautiful as well as very informative hub!

      Art Graffiti is such an improvement over plain, dirty and stained cold concrete walls. I think it also discourages the horrible grafitti we often see.

      Love this hub and can't thank you enough for featuring it. Voted up and across and sharing!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      Brilliant hub Daisy, not sure how I even missed this - I love good graffiti :o) Shared etc and pinned, very interesting.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Sherry,

      Thanks for viewing my video, reading my article, and commenting.

      I'm glad you liked the video. I was surprised by how many photographs I found on Wikimedia Commons when I searched there for images. I thought a video would be better to showcase the artwork than thumbnails and still images would be.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      That video is beautiful! Some of those people are really skillful. It would be interesting to see it being created.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Linda (Sunshine625),

      Thanks for reading and commenting in my article. Some graffiti artists are very talented. I would be surprised if someone isn't teaching a *graffiti art* class somewhere.

      If Faith or you do any more graffiti artwork, please send the photos to me by e-mail. I'd love to add them to my Hub.

      One of my friends is going to do a graffiti drawing or painting and e-mail it to me. I'm going to add it to my article, too.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Graffiti is an artistic talent. I've attempted spray can graffiti many times. In Gainesville, FL near the University of Florida they have a graffiti wall for students and residents to create their artwork. Faith was able to paint on it and she had a blast. Cool hub!

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Nithya (Vellur),

      Thanks for viewing my video, reading my article, and commenting. Thanks, too, for sharing my Hub. I didn't know there were were different name for the types of graffiti until I began doing the research for my article.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Very interesting, never knew so many types are there in graffiti! Enjoyed the read. Voted up and shared.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Aurelio (alocsin),

      You're correct about there being quite a bit of graffiti in Southern California, much of it along the railroad right-of-ways. Most of the graffiti I've seen in the county in which you and I live is gang-related tagging rather than anything artistic. When I worked for Opera Pacific, our maintenance staff had to paint over gang graffiti on our building a few times per week...after calling the police, so they could photograph the graffiti in order to identify which gang had painted it.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

      As you already know, Daisy, Southern Cal is a hotbead for graffiti, probably because the weather allows year-round tagging. I like those that have recognizable pictures, which can be seen as art, versus the ones that are just names, which is just self-aggrandizement. Voting this Up and Beautiful.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Mary (tillsontitan),

      Thanks for viewing my video, reading my article, and commenting.

      Some cities...but not enough...have *legal* graffiti walls. Perhaps the idea should be investigated further in more communities.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      I think there should be a designated spot for graffiti...as you've shown some of it portrays the talent that lies beneath. Why not give these budding artists an outlet be it Skate Park or otherwise? I enjoyed reading this hub.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Dianna (teaches12345),

      Thanks for viewing my video, reading my article, and commenting. Some of the graffiti artists are very talented. I wonder if they've had art training.

      There are two skateboard parks in my area, one built by a city, and one built by a skateboard shoe manufacturer. I'll have to drive over to both skateparks and see if there is any graffiti...legally-sanctioned or otherwise.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      There are some really interesting designs in the video. Really nice. I have seen some beautiful graffitti in the skate parks up north. It makes the place a little more polished and I think the users respect the place a little more.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Pam,

      Thanks for viewing my video, readng my article, and adding your comment.

      Do you think having legal graffiti walls in skateparks decreases the amount of graffiti appearing in places where it shouldn't be?

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 4 years ago from United States

      I didn't know there were different names for different types of graffitti either. I don't see why graffitti would be a problem in a skate park. Interesting article.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Ruchira,

      It's nice to "see" you again. Thanks for viewing my video and reading my article. I like hearing that someone learned something new from what I wrote. I appreciate your support.

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

      Interesting read, Daisy.

      Earlier I just knew about Graffiti but, here got to know the indepth about it. Thanks!

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Mary (mary615),

      Thanks for reading my article. Thanks, too, for commenting and sharing my Hub.

      I find it very interesting that your school permitted street art / graffiti to be created in the halls. Were markers used? Or was spray paint used? What was the subject matter of the art?

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      I have admired the talent that went into the graffiti I've seen. In my high school, the kids did some beautiful work in the halls.

      Very interesting and informative.

      I voted this UP, etc. and shared.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Janine,

      Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. Thanks, too, for sharing my Hub and tweeting it. I appreciate your support.

      Were other parts of the outside courts left untouched because there was a legal graffiti area at your hugh school?

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Daisy, I enjoyed reading about Skatepark Graffiti here. When I was in high school, they ended making and dedicating a portion of our outside courts for Skateboarding. They even allowed a part of a wall to be painted with graffiti art by the local students. Mind you this was back in the mid 90's, but I will never forget that. I myself was not into either, but did enjoy watching and hanging out there. Thanks for bringing back some memories, have voted, shared and tweeted too!!

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Rich (rcrumple),

      Thanks for viewing my video, reading my article, and commenting. I appreciate your continued support of my work.

      It would be interesting to research whether in the skateparks where there is a legal graffiti wall, the other walls and surfaces remain untouched.

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Daisy -

      Have to admit, the first video was amazing. Many great artists in their craft, and some not so great. Enjoyed learning about all the different types as I really had no knowledge of any division lines. Although and art, I had to vote no in the skatepark question. The owners have their own images of what they should look like. To walk in one morning and see an unauthorized piece of art means much work and multiple coats of paint to cover it up when it starts to peel. Great Hub! Up & Interesting

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Sue (sueswan),

      It's nice to "see" you again. Thanks for viewing my video, reading my article, and adding your comment.

      I had seen various types of graffiti, but I hadn't realized there were different names attached to those types.

      I don't see anything wrong with having legal graffiti walls in skateparks, either. If there were such legal places, perhaps buildings, non-skatepark walls, and other places would have less graffiti on them.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image
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      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Terrye (TToombs08),

      Thanks for viewing my video, reading my article, and being the first person to comment in my Hub.

      I hadn't heard of wheatpasting, either, until I began doing the research for my article. I've seen people using the technique, however. Someone would have a large bucket of glue-like slop, smear it on the back of a poster advertising a concert, and adhere the poster to a wall or a fence surrounding a vacant lot.

    • profile image

      Sueswan 4 years ago

      Hi Daisy,

      I did not know there were different types of graffiti. I think legal graffiti walls should be the norm in skateparks.

      Voted up and interesting.

      Take care

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      A very interesting and informative read, Daisy. I have never heard of wheatpasting. I'll have to look for that the next time I venture into a large city. Voted up and more.