Take one graffiti-tagged wall, a dozen kids and a bunch of paint — what do you get? More graffiti?
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Not on Pearl Place in Diamond Springs.
On Oct. 22, a dozen children ages 5 to 13, armed with concrete paint and paint rollers transformed a graffitti-covered cinder block wall on Pearl Place into a blank canvas.
In the next few weeks, the canvas will become a colorful mural, replacing ugly graffiti with something they, and the community, can be proud of.
“My husband, John, noticed the graffiti on the wall about six months ago when he was doing some community projects,” said Maria Taylor. “We wanted to clean it up as a community service but in a way that involved some of the kids that lived near it, maybe even some of the ones that might have tagged it.”
Maria and John Taylor own a shopping center in Diamond Springs where John has his chiropractic office and where the Diamond Springs Sunday flea market is held. They began by contacting families nearest the wall in the Pearl Place, Diamond Terrace area about the painting project and set up a Saturday to meet.
“We only had about six kids to start and they were mostly younger ones,” said Maria. “We talked about what we could do for the wall, how we could paint it, what kind of design might look good.”
Through subsequent meetings, the kids decided on a simple design for the mural and made chalk tracings of each other which Maria Taylor cleaned up and cut out the figures.
“Some of the kids had missed a hand in the tracing or they wanted their hair to be different,” said Maria, who is an artist herself, specializing in porcelain painting. “One girl wanted me to add a tutu.”
The Taylors powerwashed the 100-foot-long wall which is three feet high in some areas, moving up to six feet in height in others. True Value Hardware donated gallons of paint for the flat primer coat and on Tuesday, after school, 10 young artists arrived, eager to begin.
Inside the shelter of orange cones, while parents stayed in the background taking photos or offering painting tips, the kids rolled on gray concrete paint.
Dripping, splattering and painting in every possible direction, the artists worked amicably together to cover the wall.
Juliana, the tallest, could paint all the way to the top of the wall with a long-handled roller while diminutive Diane used a brush to cover the wall closest to the ground.
Paint it and they will come
Like moths drawn to a flame, more kids arrived. Two and then two more, then another one. Most of them, like William and Isaiah attend Indian Creek Elementary; a few like Juliana and Alyvia attend Herbert Green Middle School.
“P-O-W-E-R is off the wall,” said 9-year-old Jessica, triumphantly waving a paint-covered roller. After the graffiti is covered, the next step will be to start adding the figures of the children on the wall in various colors, a bright and happy way to take ownership of the wall and, hopefully, discourage future graffiti.
“We’ll start with one or two of the outlines, paint them in and then add them at random,” said Maria. “Teaching children is new for me; most of the art classes I teach are for adults.”
Yvonne Wagner, the Taylors’ sister-in-law, arrived with her children and extra painting equipment.
“I can’t wait until the pictures of the kids go up on the wall,” Wagner said.
Yvonne’s husband, Lynn, would like to keep the children’s art group together after the wall is finished and offer art and singing classes.
“What happens if the wall gets wrecked again?” asked a parent.
“Then we’ll paint it again,” said John Taylor.
The painters will be adding to the wall over the next few weeks, beginning with Saturday, Oct. 26. “We could use adult volunteers with the next part,” said Maria Taylor, “because I’d like the kids to work one-on-one when they add their figures to the wall.” More children are welcome as well.
If you would like to help with painting the wall either as an adult guiding a child artist or as a child artist call Maria Taylor at 530-409-9989 or John Taylor’s chiropractic office at 530-622-1234.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.