Sunday, March 29, 2009

It's Not Just About Neighborhood Pride: Murals Prevent Graffiti AND Drive Retail Sales

Graffiti covered walls and trash strewn streets are not exactly the most attractive additions to your commercial district. But then sometimes the remedy is not much more attractive than the original problem. We recently toured a commercial district in downtown Newark, NJ and talked to businesses who have given up on the painting and repainting necessary to keep graffiti in check. To make matters worse, the paint jobs are sometimes a mish-mash of different paint colors that look messy, and while an improvement, still communicate a not so positive message about the district to shoppers.

A Better Method - Murals!
The verdict is in - and we now know without a doubt that there is a better way. Neighborhood murals not only prevent graffiti, but are good for local business. A 2008 study by E-Consult, among the most comprehensive of it's kind, looked at 265 commercial corridors in the City of Philadelphia and found a positive correlation between corridor success (as measured by retail sales) and the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Murals have an amazing way of creating neighborhood pride, building a neighborhood identity - and more so than a temporary paint fix - are well respected by neighbors who become their unofficial stewards and protectors. The need to paint over the same wall again and again and again is often a thing of the past.

Engaging youth in this effort is another powerful way to work towards long-term graffiti prevention. One Washington D.C. non-profit is doing just that. The Latin American Youth Center Art + Media House partners with local artists to create murals that brighten up the community. Tim Gibbons is a local artist who helped facilitate a group of 14 youth this past summer brighten up a cement wall...see more of the wonderful results here on his blog. Certainly an improvement, and a lesson learned that engaging youth in this effort can accomplish multiple goals - the least of which might just be an improvement in retail sales for local businesses.

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