Gerald Ford graffiti pops up in Michigan hometown

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Former President Gerald Ford is remembered in his hometown of Grand Rapids by a museum and a stretch of interstate. Now, a graffiti artist has decided to memorialize the 38th commander in chief on the freeway that bears his name.

Several stenciled Ford images have popped up recently along east I-196 in the West Michigan city. One is accompanied by the phrase, "I am indebted to no man" — words spoken by Ford in 1974 after he took the oath of office. It was taken from the full quote, "I am indebted to no man and only one woman, my dear wife, Betty, as I begin this very difficult job."

"They do seem fun and playful, ignoring the fact that it's defacement of public property," James Draper, registrar at the Gerald R. Ford Public Museum, told Mlive.com for a story Tuesday. Draper said he was speaking personally and not on behalf of the museum.

The museum itself isn't taking an official position on the graffiti, though one official said it's difficult to support.

"No matter how genuine or well-done it is, or how great the intent, it's very difficult for us to condone something like this that hasn't been approved by the city," Deputy Director Jim Kratsas said.

The freeway is technically under the jurisdiction of the Michigan Department of Transportation. Department spokesman John Richards told The Associated Press that the graffiti will be removed.

"We are big fans of art when it's in its proper place," Richards said. "Anything that might distract folks from their eyes on the road is a concern to us."

David Gianfredi, assistant professor of illustration at Kendall College of Art & Design in Grand Rapids, said authorities ought to leave the graffiti in place. The use of the quote, for example, conveys something deeper than mere scrawl on the wall, he said.

"The problem is getting the general public to see it as more than just a teenage kid marking up someone's property," he said. "You can't just put up obscenities on a wall and say it's art. You have to look at community standards and allow that to carry the day."

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