Turning graffiti into art

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A Topeka project is covering eyesores with art.

Kansas First News reporter Katie Sampson tells us how a group is tackling the city’s graffiti problem.

For five years, Elisa Gallegos ran this liquor store with her husband with no crime problems… but then….

“Started getting graffiti on the east side of the building and a lot of gang signs and things like that, Gallegos said.

It’s an issue Topeka Police Lieutenant Joe Perry says is growing.

So, he’s started “The Mural Project” – working with Arts Connect, Safe Streets Coalition and Downtown Topeka Inc. to transform destructive gang symbols into beautiful works of art.

“We’ll have the artist outline it and then the community actually paints it in,” Perry said.

And this vacant building right next to Speedy Gallegos on northeast Seward… is the project’s first canvas.

“We’ve got written consent from them to paint the mural, they’ve agreed to keep the mural for at least five years,” Perry said.

Most of the graffiti is covered up by a mixture of free paint, but the people involved with this project say a wall like this has so much more potential.

“When you have art in public, you have community members who know each other, you have a sense of pride,” Arts Connect Executive Director Sarah Fizell said.

“The building of the ownership and the pride is what we’re looking for and the mural is just a tool or the vehicle to get us there,” Perry said.

That sense of pride, Perry says, could help prevent this vandalism.

“They’re more likely to be protective of it and if they see little Johnny about to do something, they’re going to yell at him,” Perry said.

Gallegos wants the benefits to come next door.

“I’m really hoping, i would really like them to do it to our building,” Gallegos said.

Turning destruction into decoration.

The entire project, covering six to eight buildings in the city, is expected to cost about $10,000 in grants and donations.

Right now, the group is looking for designs from artists.

Painting is expected to start in June.

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