For the past several years, the Farmington River Trail in Southington has been plagued by vandals that tagged buildings and other objects on the Rails to Trails line with unnecessary markings. Now local graffiti artists are fighting back, showing the art form can be used properly to make the community a more beautiful place.
Ryan Christensen and his class of seven transformed the Total Maintenance Building from a blank wall into a tribute mural for the Rails to Trails this weekend as part of a new six-week course titled “The Art of Graffiti.”
“Graffiti isn’t vandalism. It’s something that can be used in a positive way for individual expression and to make the community a better place,” said Christensen, 24. “I want to show local teenagers how to use it in a constructive way.”
Graffiti is often seen as a negative term, used commonly to describe unwanted vandalism, but Christensen said his goal is to show there is another side to it.
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Christensen, a Wallingford resident and owner of RC Murals, has already made an impact in the community. He was commissioned to spray paint a scene from “The Chronicles of Narnia” on the brick wall to the plaza near the last year and helped sculpt a mural dedicated to the Apple Harvest Festival in downtown Southington.
Mary DeCroce, chairwoman for Southington Community Cultural Arts, said his art has been a vibrant and refreshing influence in the community, so when he approached her with the idea of hosting a class, she thought it was a great idea.
“It’s a brilliant idea and it’s something that will hopefully help to dispel the tagging that has gone on,” said DeCroce, who worked with Christensen on his previous murals.
Kevin Perrotti and Nick Stafko, two local teenagers who decided to take the course after learning about Christensen’s class from DeCroce, said they have learned so much about the art form including techniques on how to make the art stand out.
“We spent the first four weeks in a classroom, learning how to use spray paint to make things with shadows and even turn a basic wall into something 3D,” said Stafko, 16, a student. “It’s fun – a way to hang out and do what we like while doing something good for the community.”
Christensen said the students have been receptive since the first day, many coming in without any idea what to expect. He said they were in awe when they realized that graffiti art could not only be used in a positive way, but that you could actually make a living off of it.
After getting into graffiti art as a teenager, Christensen found inspiration as a member of the H.I. Crew, a group of friends that he said “have been like my brothers and stuck by my side since the beginning.”
Today Christensen is a nationally recognized artist and has been commissioned to provide works of art across the country. Most recently, he used graffiti to transform a camp bus that will be used to transport students for the Northwest Connecticut YMCA.
Perrotti, a 15-year-old E.C Goodwin student, said after experiencing the class, he’d like to fine-tune his own graffiti skills and will even branch out to try other art mediums.
“This was something different and something relatively new for me. I didn’t realize just how much fun this is,” he said. “If he holds another course, I’d definitely take it and I’d encourage my friends to give it a try.”
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