Minneapolis to give out grants to deter graffiti

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The Brian Coyle Center and the West Bank Business Association were among the recipients of microgrants for creative educational and service projects.

The city of Minneapolis gave out the grants as part of its innovative approach to graffiti prevention. The projects funded include murals, mosaics, increased lighting and community education, all serving to dissuade graffiti tags throughout the city.

As part of its program, the Brian Coyle Center has painted murals on business walls around Cedar Avenue, including one on the Red Sea Bar & Restaurant and one at the Cedar-Riverside light-rail station.

“We’ll take graffiti hot spots and paint murals because they’re less likely to get tagged,” said Jennifer Blevins, director of the Brian Coyle Center.

The City Council’s Transportation and Public Works Committee approved the grants Tuesday.

Local nonprofit organization Mentoring Peace through Art has been dedicated to this effort for years, working with youth to paint large murals on blank business walls.

The group, founded by husband and wife Jimmy Longoria and Connie Fullmer, focuses on youth leadership and empowerment.

“We try to have kids do everything,” Fullmer said.

The youth work with community members and business owners to determine the subject matter for the mural. They then design and paint the vast cement canvass.

“This is not public art, this is community art,” Longoria said.

The murals function to dissuade gang tags and discourage drug sales and prostitution near the murals, Fullmer said.

She said the vibrant murals also prevent gang activity in front of them because people who walk by stop and look at them.

Longoria intentionally uses varied brush strokes so graffiti tags won’t be visible on the mural.

“The most rewarding part is the change in the community,” said 21-year-old Kate Hondlik, a project leader with the group.

The Step-Up crew meeting at the end of day one for the American flag mural Wednesday in South Minneapolis.

Minneapolis Solid Waste and Recycling has provided grants in four of the past five years.

“I just totally think it’s a great program and it’s done its work,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Glidden said.

Glidden represents the city’s 8th Ward, where she said there’s a lot of graffiti.

She said one measure of the program’s success is that “you have a beautiful piece of art work on a wall that was otherwise covered graffiti.”

“It has a whole change in how much pride you have in your neighborhood,” she said.

The full City Council will vote on the grants on June 29.