Urban Arts Forum - update
Positive articles on graff, murals, legal walls

Transforming a community - a makeover show

There are several approaches being used to try to "manage" unwanted graffiti. Many of them are confrontational, and focus on more police, more jails, bans on carrying spray cans or markers, and neighbourhood vigilantes.

I have worked for several years with various groups on a cooperative approach that use graffiti style urban art as a tool to "transform" a community, physically as well as socially.

The initiative will focus on a neglected back alley for example, full of garbage, unwanted tagging, weeds, and broken bottles - an area that tends to attract drunks and drug users, an area that the local residents are afraid to walk through unless it's broad daylight. Residents, owners, and local youth are brought together to work on the project, cleaning up the area, re-priming walls, adding colourful art murals, and even planting a few vines. The immediate results of this collaborative effort are a cleaner area that all can be proud of, and greatly reduced tagging, longer lasting results include stronger social bonds in the community through working together, communicating, and gaining an understanding of the different cultures of each group. In addition, the people using the alley are now residents and the occasional tourist with a camera, or maybe even community group tours.

I've been working on these projects in Toronto with Community CAVE (Communities Advancing Valued Environments), Const. Scott Mills of Crimestoppers, and Janna van Hoof of Style in Progress. In addition, Sketch Orleans, a local youth group here in Ottawa, has been a valuable ally. Each of these have a slightly different approach, complementing each other, so I had been trying to merge these into a "how-to" document to take to communities. Scott Mills suggested I pull this all together into a guide, that he would then forward for inclusion into the Ontario School Resource Officer manual. This manual is used both as a course manual and a reference guide by police forces across Ontario, and is also part of the reference of other groups, such as the RCMP.

We completed this a few months ago, and sent it in for the manual.  I have included a copy of the guide here for interested communities and leaders to use, with some minor tweaks to the original, mainly to add clarity or examples. If you would like I can help guide you through the process, or you can use it on your own. I just ask that you give a credit to me for the guide, and especially that you give me feedback on projects you do with it. Send me comments, suggestions, corrections, concerns, before and after photos of your makeover, links to local articles or your community site, samples of letters and forms you devised. I'll try to incorporate it all into this site and the guide as a reference for all.



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