By Karla Flores & Brent Jensen | email@example.com & firstname.lastname@example.org
How do you feel when you see vandalism around your neighborhood? Does it make you feel unsafe? Graffiti is transformed from a rebellious act of vandalism to a legal form of expression through the Graffiti Education and Mural Arts Program, an initiative by the San Diego Cultural Arts Alliance (The Alliance).
From March 20th through the 22nd, The Alliance partnered with Writerz Blok to lead a mural installation project in the parking garage of Westfield Mission Valley Mall. The event, “Underground Art in the Underground,” was a gift to the community of San Diego and a message to youth whose individuality seeks expression.
Original artwork created by street artists Hasler One and Dyse One, in collaboration with Writerz Blok, covers over 50 feet of wall space in the lower parking lot of Westfield Mission Valley Mall facing San Diego’s 8 Freeway.
The previously grey walls communicate an artistic message to the public to be “Creative.” The eight-letter word is spelled out across four sections of wall space and is colorfully camouflaged by the artists to create a positive and inspiring message to the community.
The mural by Hasler One and Dyse One, whose professional work can be found around San Diego and Chicano Park, is a testament to the ability of Writerz Blok and other City Heights-based street art and mural arts programs. According to Sergio Gonzales, founder of Writerz Blok, these initiatives are directed toward making a positive impact in the community. “This is to create awareness in the city as far as graffiti goes…it’s not always bad,” said Hasler One.
“[These artists] had no outlets when they were growing up,” said Gonzales. “Now they have their own companies and (they are) giving back.”
According to Gonzales, public murals not only increase property value, but also represent a small step toward beautification of the city.
Gonzales describes the ultimate goal he pursues: “to give kids the hope and the possibilities necessary on a pathway to bigger, better lives” and “to encourage kids to cultivate their individuality while thriving in a professional world.”
Linda Sheridan, founder of The Alliance, spoke about the goals of the project. “(We are) setting examples for success through legal activity and by giving kids a chance to turn graffiti into street art,” Sheridan said. “Graffiti is often part of youth’s search for identity, but it must be done in a safe way.”
Sheridan recently started an initiative called the Graffiti Education and Mural Arts program as part of The Alliance to teaches youth how to use street art rather than graffiti to express themselves. Sheridan hopes to integrate the program into city schools to inspire and educate youth and inform educators about alternative ways of artistic expression.
Two City Heights schools are currently involved in piloting portions of the Graffiti Education and Mural Arts curriculum to increase graffiti awareness and civic engagement through art.
Monroe Clark Middle School’s (MCMS) PhotoCity program, run by The AjA Project, a City Heights-based nonprofit focused on empowering youth through photography, will be piloting portions of the Graffiti Education and Mural Arts curriculum this spring. The administration at MCMS have approved a PhotoCity student initiative to create a art mural on their campus highlighting words and images to inspire students and faculty at the school.
“The students photographed graffiti throughout their community which procured negative messages and impacted the students’ ability to feel safe within their own neighborhoods,” PhotoCity lead instructor Christina Chomut said. “Based on these images, PhotoCity students identified the need for more vibrant art to exist within their community and at their school.”
Using their images (the students) developed a proposal to create an art mural at their school. The proposal was approved in February, giving the students the green light to move ahead with their initiative.
“We have met with both Linda Sheridan and Linda Litteral of The Alliance and we are very excited to pilot portions of the Graffiti Education and Mural Arts program in the PhotoCity classroom,” said Chomut. “I believe it will enhance our efforts significantly and will hopefully inform The Alliance’s program curriculum as our efforts continue to develop.”
In addition to the MCMS PhotoCity initiative, Crawford High School will also be piloting portions of The Alliance’s Graffiti Education and Mural Arts program curriculum in the classroom this spring.
For more information about The Alliance and the Graffiti Education and Mural Arts program, please visit http://www.muralallianceproject.org/
For more information about Writerz Blok, please visit http://writerzblok.com/