Art Students Transform Blight Into Beauty

Fort Worth program paints murals over graffiti

Fort Worth's Graffiti Abatement Program has a twist to it: more graffiti.

Art students from Diamond Hill-Jarvis and Carter-Riverside high schools are painting murals on the walls of businesses tagged with gang graffiti and profanity.

Leticia Cabello, the owner of Mi Tiendita, a convenience store in the 1100 block of Dickson, said she has spent hundreds of dollars and dozens of hours trying to get rid of vandals' work.

"It's so sad, because we work so hard to keep the place clean," she said.

But murals now adorn her entire store, brightening the area.

And the students say taggers leave the works of art alone.

 "Whenever we do a mural, after the mural is there, no one hits it up," said Emmanuel Cerda, of Carter-Riverside High School, who, like many of the artists working on the project, is a former tagger.

Teachers say the murals are sort of like sneaking kids their vegetables. The students like to paint, and the murals are an opportunity for them to do community service and have their talents appreciated -- for the very time for some students.

The teenagers are currently working for free. But because Fort Worth has so many vandalized buildings, some people are suggesting the city pay the young artists to paint murals all over the city.

Cabello said the project is worth whatever cost. The mural on her store renews pride in the neighborhood, she said. Customers have even said taggers won't deface it without getting a fight.

"They're not going to come back, because they know we are tough, and we are together -- all the neighbors," Cabello said.

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