Teens replace graffiti with mural

The last time they cleaned the wall stretching along Olinville Avenue between Waring and Mace avenues, it was defaced again within days.

“I used to paint it myself, but in the last few years we just gave up,” said Danny Muniz, superintendent of the building at 2410 Barker Ave, which includes the wall. “There was too much graffiti.”

But on Friday, August 13, Muniz stood in front of the wall and looked at a freshly-painted, vibrant mural with pictures of budding trees, giant butterflies, playful children and absolutely no graffiti.

“I hope that this beautiful mural is going to stay this way,” he said as groups of teens from the area painted the final details.

Moments later, the children along with staff from Neighborhood Initiative Development Corps. gathered in front of the mural to cut the ribbon on the project.

“It’s not over,” said NIDC executive director William Foster. “The work is going to continue. We’re going to work with the community to make sure this is a block that people want to walk down, and a point of pride in the neighborhood.”

For the past five weeks, teens and adults have been volunteering their time to scrape paint off the old wall, repaint the mural, and install doggy-bag dispensers.

The project was run through the NIDC’s Prep 4 Success program, which conducts beautification and education programs for students from ninth to eleventh grade at Columbus High School.

The city Department of Youth and Community Services granted the NIDC $2,500 for the project, and sponsors like McDonald’s and Dominos provided free food to volunteers.

According to program director Maryum Delves-Opa more than 100 volunteers, including students, adults, city staff and former graffiti artists, helped turn the ragged 387-foot concrete wall into a lively mural.

“We wanted to create something we do not normally see,” she said. “We want to show the kids they can make any changes they want in the community.”

For Brittney Carr and Roshae Ferguson, both entering 11th grade in September, the project was a fun way to spend their summer and give back to the community.

“It was disgusting. All those school kids shouldn’t have to walk past graffiti and dog mess,” said Carr. “It’s overwhelming and exciting to see we left that much of an impact on the community.”

Delves-Opa said that ever since the graffiti was removed from the 15-foot high wall, neighbors have told her this is the longest stretch of time it has been without graffiti.

“They have been coming out and telling us every day that it’s day five or day ten,” she said. “Today, it’s day 16.”

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