Maryvale Graffiti Wall Provides ‘Tagger’ Outlet

NEW LOOK–This graffiti wall in West Phoenix lets youth be creative.


By Sandi Gabel – 

Spray paint used to cast a fuzzy glow over the West Side’s buildings–hazy outlines and shapes seemed to be a part of the structures themselves. Nothing was sacred from the nightly barrage of the “taggers,” who could convert a newly whitewashed fence into a phosphorescent “masterpiece” within seconds.

In October 1996, Captains Daniel and Yvonne Nunez, officers at the Maryvale Corps Community Center, noticed the graffiti pollution in their neighborhood was overwhelming its citizens. Buildings, fences and billboards were covered with the designs and paintings of some very talented young artists. “Tag bangers” (street artists) were spray painting their “tags” (nicknames) across town in a territorial warfare.

The Nunezes took action. The north side of the Community center was converted to a graffiti wall, where local artists now ply their trade in a safe, non-threatening environment, creating murals and designs without posing a threat to the community. Since the wall has been designated as free space, West Phoenix has seen a 90 percent drop in neighborhood graffiti.

Youngsters from across the Valley–all areas of Phoenix, Toleson, Tempe and Mesa–can paint all day during the summer, and after school and on weekends during the academic year. They are forbidden to depict any gang-related symbols and activities or to glorify drug and alcohol use. If an artist’s work, which is usually highly distinctive, is spotted on public property they are banned from the wall for a month.

The wall is whitewashed every two to three weeks, and another creation is begun.

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