Graffiti Provides Pathway to Deep Conversations

By Stan Friedman

LA CORUÑA, SPAIN (June 1, 2012) – What started as an effort to clean graffiti from a pedestrian walkway developed into a “tapestry of relationships” among neighborhood residents, politicians, members of a local church plant, a mission team from Covenant Grove Church in Modesto, California, and local graffiti artists.

After cleaning the graffiti, they all joined together to beautify the walkway with a mural. Vida Nueva Covenant Church sponsored the multi-day event as a means of promoting reconciliation among locals and “illegal” graffiti artists, says Evangelical Covenant Church missionary Robert Reed.

The initial graffiti had angered residents and other locals. “It was incredible to present ourselves as evangelicals that are working to serve and reconcile. The really cool thing was cleaning two of the walls with the worst graffiti in the area, and then painting the mural.”

Some “illegal and legal” youth graffiti artists showed up to watch, but were invited to paint the mural under the direction of artist Jorge Carracedo, who is part of the group of a new Covenant church plant in the area, says Reed.

Cleaning the graffiti and then painting the mural already has had a positive impact on the community, says Reed, adding that Carracedo “is developing an incredible rapport with all of the kids.”

As they were painting, the mother of one graffiti artist stopped by and expressed her gratitude for the interest shown in her son. She also shared the difficulties of raising three children and dealing with colon cancer at the same time. “Just minutes later we were praying for her,” Reed says.

Reed credits prayer with enabling the work. “The day before we were to start cleaning graffiti we were informed that we needed a permit,” Reed says. “We prayed. Ten minutes later we got a call from the mayor’s office saying they would facilitate permits and congratulated us for our initiative.”

The church is promoting reconciliation among all the parties and others with additional events. On the same evening that church members prayed for the mother, the congregation hosted a discussion on the “Aesthetics of Graffiti” that was attended by many of the same people who were participating on the project.

A neighborhood association held a meeting to discuss vandalism and graffiti. “They are looking to us for help,” says Reed.

Discussing the graffiti is a way to initiate talking about deeper issues that lead to people defacing property. “We want to not only clean graffiti, but to get involved in prevention and facing head-on the multi-layered complexities of graffiti,” says Reed.

The church’s witness has grown as it has worked on the walkway, organized discussions, and developed relationships with the teens. “This week we have served with the community, not just for the community.”

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