JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Street art has become quite the talk around town, and if you drive through San Marco and Riverside it's hard to miss.
"In Jacksonville a lot of people do things and ask for forgiveness later. So I gave the city a bunch of beautiful art and now I'm kind of asking for forgiveness," explains a local artist who calls himself "Keith Haring's Ghost".
He's speaking out about why he has painted city-owned property without asking for permission.
"This is the way they looked just absolutely destroyed gray box, gray spray paint all over it...I live not far from here and I pull through this area all the time and I'm like those are perfect canvasses," said the artist.
With a bandana covering his face, and wearing a hat and glasses in hopes of concealing his identity, "Keith Haring's Ghost" because he says he doesn't want this to be about him.
"The art is all homage to the artist Keith Haring who died in 1990. It's his art and I thought that the art speaks the language that people readily understand."
This summer in the wee hours of the morning with a team of lookouts he said he started painting city-owned traffic signal control cabinets. He's painted about a dozen throughout San Marco and Riverside.
"I would like this to be public discussion. There are people in the city who have been made aware of my identity on a need to know basis so they can contact me and talk to me."
First Coast News met him next to one of his paintings on Hendricks Avenue. During our conversation fans shouted out in support of his artwork with one, Tanner Deprin, even walking up to get a picture with him. Deprin works across the street for a painted city-owned box.
"I love the artwork. I think it's great. You take an ugly gray box and turn it into something that looks cool and unity and all that. I'm in full support of that down here," said Deprin.
"This is pretty clear what these images mean. It's peace, love, equal right for human beings and that's what this city is rallying behind. One, the city wants equal rights, but the city also wants street art so this was to start a conversation," explained the artist.
"Keith Haring's Ghost" said he has heard police want to arrest him for vandalizing city property.
We reached out to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and got this response: "We don't comment on active investigations," said Officer Melissa Bujeda.
"I'm not trying to cause trouble. I'm not trying to be malicious," said the artist. "I'm just trying to beautify the city I grew up in."
Until he can work out something with the city, he says he won't paint any more city-owned boxes.
"I'm asking the mayor and the city council to one work with the street artists in this the city to let us have more art."
The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville says there is an art in public places ordinance that mandates a process for art selection.
The mayor's spokesman, David DeCamp, said the chief city attorney knew nothing about any controversy surrounding these decorated boxes until the media called.
"The General Counsel, our chief city attorney, reports no interaction. The city Public Works Department has and will take steps if any city property has to be maintained properly, if necessary for the public, including traffic signal boxes that appear to be the subject of your inquiry," wrote DeCamp in an email.
He directed us to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office for any inquiries about law enforcement.
"Any police officer can handle and investigate a graffiti call," said Officer Brujeda. "We do have a Graffiti Abatement Response Program which falls under Community Affairs. Their involvement is to contact the identified owner and initiate an abatement response. The investigative efforts for the criminal mischief still fall with the patrol officer if solvability for the crime exists. It is investigated just like any other crime is investigated."
First Coast News