Thursday, 24 May 2012

Art to preempt graffiti at high school

Here are a few more pictures taken yesterday May 23rd of Wil's progress, and also below you can find an article about Wil and his mural from the local Fort McMurray today paper (thank you Amanda!)

Art to preempt graffiti at high school

Calgary-based artist paints mural on wall of Composite High School

By Amanda Richardson

Posted 1 day ago
Fighting graffiti with art, the municipality recently commissioned a large piece of art to adorn the back wall of Composite High School, a popular piece of real estate for local taggers and vandals.

Calgary-based artist Wil Yee was brought in after a successful application proved he was not only a talented artist, but knew and understood the unique history of the region.
“It’s just about incorporating the textures of the land and the critters into the piece,” explained Yee.

After learning of the art proposal, Yee took to the Internet to research the region, taking time to incorporate the region’s namesake animal, the famed Peter Pond, and Composite’s two miner mascots.

“This is our first public art commission for the municipality,” said Connor Buchanan, culture co-ordinator with the municipality. “We assisted the Beautification work unit because they have a graffiti abatement program. Our municipality spends money cleaning up and wiping out graffiti, just like so many cities around Canada, and internationally. Many municipalities have introduce new programs that  allocate money to public art commissions from their Graffiti Abatement budgets, in essence taking the amount of money that would be put towards cleaning up graffiti and putting it into a commissioned piece of public art, because it has the same effect."

“So by putting a beautiful piece of public art up that the community, and in this instance, the school has ownership over, will hopefully abate people from tagging, because this wall on Composite High School gets tagged a lot.”

Jillian MacDonald, beautification co-ordinator with the municipality, says the region has a team dedicated to graffiti cleanup between April and October each year, even putting summer students to work on the time consuming project.

The municipality spent more than $50,000 last year on graffiti abatement projects and removal, and while tagging and graffiti is a problem all throughout Fort McMurray, the Composite wall is a particularly troublesome spot.
“Composite also had to deal with removal of graffiti on the wall we are painting on,” said MacDonald. “It became a problem wall and during the 2010-11 school year, they spent nearly $32,000 cleaning it up.”

MacDonald says a major deterrent for graffiti taggers is the level of community engagement in the piece.

“It was a way to engage youth in graffiti abatement in a way that wasn’t telling them, ‘No, no, no,’ all the time,” she explained. “So we thought it would be really awesome to get a street artist up that could do a mural with them.

“It’s about being proactive and getting students involved, showing them that there is an actual profession in street art and that they don’t have to go around tagging people’s property illegally. They can get in and hone their craft like amazing artists like Wil.”
Yee says he hopes his piece, and the amount of community participation that went into it, will help youth and adults alike understand that street art and graffiti-style art doesn’t have to be done illegally.

“I worked with the City of Calgary on a few graffiti abatement projects, just to try and create a bridge between the community and the participants to do go about and do graffiti or vandalize property. It’s about creating that awareness that there is an outlet for creative expression, as well as repercussions if it hurts the community,” explained Yee.

“It’s such a huge, huge honour to have this wall and get to work on it with the community and the students. For me, it’s a truly unique and fun experience.”

The mural will be unveiled at a ribbon cutting ceremony Monday at 10 a.m. on the backfield at Composite High School, and McMurrayites are encouraged to go down and check out the piece and chat with the mind behind the brush while Yee finishes clutter his work this weekend.

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