FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The Jennings-May-St. Louis park in south Fort Worth had a problem. It was covered in graffiti. Nestled under a large overpass, the concrete pillars of the bridge, with its long sloping concrete aprons and even park benches were ‘tagged’ with graffiti. As soon as Fort Worth graffiti abatement teams covered the graffiti with paint, the scrawled, spray painted writing of the taggers would reappear. Fearing that the tags were gang-related, many people were afraid to visit the park. Aesthetically the park was mere concrete marked by occasional faded splashes of color left by taggers. It wasn’t a welcoming, friendly place for families.
“Aesthetically you didn’t want to be here,” said Juanita Jimenez with the Jennings-May-St. Louis Homeowners Association. “You didn’t feel safe when everything around you was [sic] graffitied. It was that type of environment. You just didn’t want to be here.”
So the homeowners partnered with Fort Worth’s graffiti abatement team and together they called the art department at Paschal High School. As a team, they changed the park’s grim appearance.
“Think of a rain forest,” said art teacher Cavan Crane as he looked at the art work surrounding him in the park. “This is an Aztec temple in the middle of a rain forest.”
The idea the art students came up with was to use visual imagery of Mexican culture in a huge mural on the apron under the bridge. The pillars would become trees. Homeowners picked up brushes. Churches bused in volunteers to help. A design mapped out by students took root and grew into a colorful, tropical mural.
A large, Aztec pyramid is at the center of the art. There are Aztecan symbols of dragons and serpents to either side as well as an eagle with a snake in its mouth as it appears on the Mexican flag. The art work is in bright shades of blue, yellow, red and green and spans two hundred and seventy feet of concrete.
Individuals made each pillar their own part of the rain forest taking a personal hand in helping revitalize a neighborhood. Many of the pillar “trees” have colorful animals on them like cheetahs, elephants, snakes and butterflies.
“Its just amazing!” Crane exclaimed. “It opened the creative door for all these different community members to be a part of this. And you know, they brought friends and family down here to say, ‘I did that. You see that up there? That’s my design. I drew the whole thing.'” The graffiti ‘artists’ leave the art work alone out of respect.
“It has not been tagged because this mural is art,” said Detra Call, Graffiti Abatement Coordinator. “This neighborhood, the residents, the children they’re taking care of this park. And that’s what its about.”
And now people who live here enjoy relaxing and playing near their own, colorful vision they helped to create.
“And that has been the most rewarding, seeing the park used by the children and the neighborhood and the families,” Jimenez said.
(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
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