Looking to establish a place where up and coming graffiti artists could hone their craft in a safe space, Harlem community leader Ray “Sting Ray” Rodriguez dubbed the concrete walls of the Jackie Robinson Educational Complex’s schoolyard to be the Graffiti Hall of Fame, and it has been attracting some of the best street artists in the world for more than 30 years.
Originally creating his semi-unauthorized gallery in 1980, Sting Ray and his supporters meant it to be a place where graf artists could come and practice their skills with a spray paint can during a time when the art itself was moving away from simply scrawled tags to bright, expressive murals. Each of the school yard’s four walls both in the grounds and out were fair game.
Today the ethos has changed with the motto of the site being, “Strictly Kings or Better,” and a rotating cast of internationally renowned street artists visiting the Hall of Fame and leaving a piece. Now the walls are usually covered in clean, dare it be described as professional, pieces of graffiti. Despite graffiti’s often maligned reputation, the Hall of Fame has brought enough attention to the school complex, which houses four separate schools, that the school yard itself has been renovated and is now just as clean as the writing on the walls.