Neighborhood artwork’s goal: To eliminate gang graffiti

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — A campaign to stop gateway crimes and beautify neighborhoods is having its first success story.  City leaders unveiled a new mural Tuesday morning at the corner of Norton and Independence Avenues.

The Spirit of Community artwork is designed to make neighborhoods stronger while eliminating gang graffiti and vandalism.  The city’s Gateway Crimes Task Force spearheaded creation of the mural as a tool to eradicate graffiti, which is a constant problem in the Northeast neighborhood.

The mural is called “A Kingdom Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand.” It portrays the Old Northeast as a cultural melting pot and uses symbolism to illustrate the unique journeys neighbors have taken to get here.

It was created by a professional artist, who says the mural conveys the importance of working together to build a strong community.

The project also provided professional experience for neighborhood teens who helped as apprentices create the mural with artist J.T. Daniels.

“They’re actually from the neighborhood. It’s not just an artist coming into the neighborhood making something for them and then leaving.  We took them from the neighborhood, let them design it, let them pick out the colors, and then say, ‘Hey what do you need?,’” Daniels said.

“So I think pairing with them, pairing with people around the mural in the area, it gives them ownership.  When you take ownership of something usually you don’t want to destroy your own items,” he explained.

The building had been a frequent target for taggers. Two months ago, the program suffered a minor setback after thieves stole $800 worth of paint and other supplies that the artists were using to create the mural.

UMB Bank donated money to replace the paint and stolen supplies so the project could be completed.

And as art like this becomes more common, the goal is to lift up neighborhoods plagued by vandalism and graffiti.

The city task force also provides graffiti removal training to neighborhood groups and loans out graffiti removal gear and chemicals to neighbors fighting to take back their community from street gangs.

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