In St. Paul, Hamline-Midway plans painting to prevent graffiti

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In St. Paul this fall, community members and small business owners are meeting up, sharing tips, and making plans to combat an ongoing graffiti problem in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood.

While representatives from the St. Paul police force have offered tips to avoid further graffiti problems, including reporting any graffiti vandalism immediately, and breaking up blank or exposed walls with climbing vines or bushes, some community members and local business owners say a more colorful solution may be on the horizon.

According to Ginkgo Coffee House owner Kathy Sundberg, so far three to five buildings in the neighborhood have expressed interest in displaying murals on their outdoor walls to help provide a more permanent solution to graffiti vandalism.

“Personally, I think it’s great to have a way for artists to express themselves,” said Sundberg.

Mallory Haar is a program assistant and creative arts specialist at the Lab, a special education program with the St. Paul Public School district, which encourages youth empowerment through the creative arts. Haar has been involved in the preliminary stages of the Midway mural project.

Haar notes that she has seen indoor, student murals, like the one at Harding High School in St. Paul, bring a positive sense of community to otherwise “dungeon-like” halls.

Covering outdoor walls and with appropriate messages serves a similar purpose, helping to strengthen positive community ties, says Haar.

While much of the Hamline-Midway mural project is still in the planning stages, across the river in Minneapolis, Erik Gustafson from the Corcoran Neighborhood has had experience and success with a wide-scale graffiti prevention and mural project. To date, twelve murals have been completed in highly visible, graffiti “hotspots” in the neighborhood.

“Murals have proven themselves to prevent future graffiti, especially when it’s something the community makes,” said Gustafson.

“It’s not just a way to prevent graffiti,” said Gustafson. “Murals can unite the whole neighborhood to take ownership of the community.”

The Hamline-Midway mural project is slated to begin next year.

Maura Youngman is a journalism student at Hamline University and an intern at the Twin Cities Daily Planet.