Learning graffiti the legal way

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Nelson “Chief 69” Seda is writing his own version of the graffiti story.

And you’re invited to write with him, free of charge.

The 22-year-old from the South Bronx will be hosting open graffiti workshops in Hunt’s Point on Sundays starting October 13. Anyone above the age of 14 is invited to drop by and learn the ways of street art, he said.

Seda doesn’t do “tags,” the scribbled lines of spray paint that mark a crew’s ownership of a space and that have caused headaches in communities Bronx-wide, sparking cleanup initiatives and inspiring speeches from politicians.

“In the Bronx, a lot of people shun street art,” he said. “People see the tags and don’t understand what graffiti can be.”

Seda is instead what the graffiti community calls a “writer,” someone who crafts projects that take time and effort. He makes art in the vein of TatsCru, the South Bronx veterans who now produce professional street art advertisements for clients.

Chief69 is not a street art master himself just yet; he’s only been at the game for a few years. But he loves the creative process and is eager to share his art with those interested in the craft.

“The Bronx has the highest concentration of graffiti artists in NYC, but they don’t have the foundation,” he said. “I’m by no means the best in the Bronx, but I’ve learned enough to share it.”

Visitors to Seda’s workshop will learn the basics of how to create murals, and will also absorb Seda’s street art philosophy. Seda considers good graffiti art that has a message and is a “voice for have nots,” though he stressed that good graffiti does not have to break the law.

“I’m not trying to encourage young people to do any illegal work. I’m trying to let them know what graffiti is all about,” he said.

New York City law dictates that an artist can spray paint a mural as long as the property owner gives expressed content, and Seda has peppered his neighborhood with paintings, including a mural on the side of a fried chicken joint at Freeman Street and Southern Boulevard.

He said that most landlords have been happy to work with him to spruce up the neighborhood. He often paints over sloppy tags with more extensive projects, he said.

“I just say hey I’m an artist from the community, and a lot of times it’s not until they actually see the art that they understand exactly what I’m doing, but usually they’re into it,” Seda said.

His “chief” moniker comes from a graffiti artist in Brooklyn named “chief” who Seda admires, and the 69 portion — well, Seda insists that it’s just a random number added in order to set himself apart from the original chief. Along with street art, Chief69 raps and said he’s part of the international hip hop awareness group The Universal Zulu Nation.

Seda hopes to create a mural or beautify a garden in the community with the pupils who show up to his workshop, which will take place somewhere on Southern Boulevard.

To sign up for Seda’s workshops, he suggests visiting his blog at or shooting him an email at

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