Graffiti murals in unlikely places
October 26th, 2011
Omaha, NE – You might stumble upon some graffiti in a few unlikely places in Omaha sometime soon.
Tucked beneath an overpass, near the newly minted Aksarben Village, a brightly painted graffiti mural is spread across a large concrete wall. The writing says “Community,” and although Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle says he can barely make out the stylized, bubbled lettering, he appreciates what he’s looking at.
“I think over time we’ll see this will be a representation for all of us,” Suttle said, “regardless of what generation you’re in, to enjoy the colors and the meanings that are in what we’re looking at today.”
Suttle attended the unveiling Monday of a graffiti mural created by a group of Omaha teens, who quit spray painting on the streets to join the Kent Bellows Studio and Center for Visual Arts and work with mentors, who could show them a safer, legal way to express themselves. The mural is one of four already completed near the Keystone Trail, and the studio hopes to complete a mural on every underpass throughout the Trail, which winds through several neighborhoods and ends up in Bellevue. So several permission slips will be required before it can be completed, and that’s where the Neighborhood Center comes in.
“We have some really artistic and talented kids, who were putting themselves at a lot of risk doing illegal tagging,” said Crystal Rhoades, the Center’s Assistant Executive Director. “They were really making people angry; we were spending a lot of money as a community cleaning it up.”
Rhoades said she approached the Kent Bellows Studio to see if there was a way to engage the young taggers in a positive way. “Get them working in a really constructive program that can act as beautification. It’s an afterschool program, it’s a mentoring program, so they can really produce something that’s constructive not destructive in nature.”
One of those young taggers is 16-year-old Jamie Wyble. “Graffiti is how I express myself, it’s how I speak sometimes,” Wyble explained at a graffiti workshop earlier this summer. “Not being able to do it is kind of like killing a piece of myself.”
Wyble’s been enrolled in the Kent Bellows program since 2010. She calls it a graceful and beautiful art form. “I’m just obsessed with it.”
“Instead of some young people hanging over a bridge railing trying to paint upside down, or off a roof of a 20 story building,” Suttle said, “now we have it in areas where it is constructive, and it’s safe and it’s being done in an orderly fashion.”
The three other Kent Bellows murals are located near 72nd St. and Rose Blumkin Drive, the Pacific Street underpass, and a little further up the Keystone Trail under Mercy Road.