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Graffiti Artists To Tackle Underpass

About 14 graffiti artists will put their mark on a city underpass at the weekend - and everything will be legal.

The graffiti artists will start their works about 9am on Saturday 25 November and go until they finish the job of covering the walls.

It will be part of the Christchurch City Council's legal arts programme that will educate graffiti artists to lift artistic standards to a higher level and undertake legal-art activities.

It also aims to increase community respect for legal graffiti arts. The public is invited to attend while Saturday's painting is taking place in the Queen Elizabeth 11 underpass that is at the northern end of Hills Road, near Mairehau High School.

The Council's City Streets Unit has given paint for the work - first the underpass will be painted white to cover tagging by those undergoing community service - and then the graffiti artists will get to work.

"Young people come to me saying they are really keen to do graffiti art works. They want to learn techniques, work in a team and paint big pieces as a group effort," says the Council's Legal Art Co-ordinator, Sharon Williams.

"It will be a fantastic day with positive results and I hope members of the public will come along for a look and even be involved somehow," Sharon Williams says.

"I hope the community can learn what graffiti is all about for these young people," she says.

The graffiti strategy, co-ordinated by the City Council, comprises the graffiti hot line, professional graffiti removal and a legal arts programme under Sharon Williams.

The legal arts programme aims to provide a positive environment in which graffiti artists can redirect their energies and express their art form legally.

The programme is designed also to reduce the incidence of graffiti vandalism.

Young people are provided with mentors who are competent artists and appropriate role models. Sharon Williams says it is hoped that some graffiti artists will get paid work eventually that will involve their artistic abilities.

One mentor is Jonny Wartmann who, with Bonni Tamati, has formed the Christchurch Community Artists, a group involved in the Council's legal arts programme, looking after the interests of taggers and graffiti artists.

He says the group is trying to help rehabilitate taggers and so far had received positive responses from taggers who wanted to learn to paint professional murals and learn techniques.

Jonny says in Germany graffiti artists are sponsored to brighten up cities with their creative works. "We hope to not only develop artistic skills but at the same time get public understanding that graffiti can be a legitimate art form," he says.

The Queen Elizabeth 11 underpass is one of the first projects that the Council has promoted. The underpass is badly affected by graffiti vandalism at present.

Ms Williams says the clean up of graffiti costs the city about $300,000 a year. She says the uncounted cost in an increase in the fear of crime, the breaking of community spirit and the loss of civic pride.

Further information: Sharon Williams: 372 2327.

Christchurch City Council http://www.ccc.govt.nz

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