Using art to revitalize a neighborhood: Art collectives create murals along Del Paso Boulevard

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Three years ago, a restaurant in the Del Paso Heights neighborhood of Sacramento started a revolution. Rather than remove graffiti, they decided to use it to beautify the area. Aman Smith’s building on Del Paso Boulevard had two incidents that damaged the front of his store. One of those was the fact someone tagged his building.Still, Aman isn’t giving in to graffiti. “I looked at it. And I was like, ‘Oh, I want to do something over that,'” he said. Stroke by meticulous stroke, he’s embracing it.”We’re working on this mural that I started a couple of weeks ago,” says Smith, seated on a chair next to a Rubbermaid table. It holds all his supplies. “This has been a project I’ve been working on, just to kind of beautify our, our area a little bit,” he said. He takes pastels, permanent paint pens, and regular paint, shaking the cans so fast you cannot see the cylinder, and dips his brush in it. He slowly finishes the outline of a recognizable shape on the building. “The owl is, in some cultures, a very prestigious animal,” Smith says, adding to the outline of a wing on his façade. “I kind of feel the same way represents wisdom and knowledge and, and kind of the definition of the brand and what we’re here for you know?”He took the cleanup of the space he rents into his own hands. Not just covering the tag on his store but the windows broken in a burglary attempt. “It’s hard, you know, it’s hard to keep these businesses going and keep people … coming through the doors,” says Smith. “This used to be the art district,” says Smith, pointing out that years ago, Del Paso was known for art and artists.But Aman Smith isn’t alone. Just down the street, John Blair and Norman Ayles have a plan for the boarded-up and broken window on a city-owned building on Del Paso Boulevard. “We always just take it as a beautification aspect,” says Blair, grabbing spray cans and a piece of plywood. Not only will they paint, but they’re also repairing the boarded-up area of the broken window on a former shoe store. While they’re cleaning up the area they’re also creating a sort of renaissance. “I think North Sacramento now has the most condensed amount of murals, especially on Del Paso Boulevard,” says Blair from inside his shop. “I think you can walk this 1.1 miles and see around 50 murals.”These artists are just a few of the people using graffiti art to change the landscape.”It’s a very American art form that just has now spawned worldwide,” says Blair. “It’s kind of like jazz music in that sense that it’s, you know, purely an American art form.”Blair took that idea literally, combining one art form, his paintings, and jazz, incorporating the music of one artist into the cleanup of a vacant building. A QR code takes you to the music of the artist who inspired him: “We did the Thelonious Monk mural. Anytime we can, we can pull, you know, different art into murals … it’s all very similar as an art form.”Graffiti for Good, the organization Blair founded, and a number of other collectives along Del Paso paint on any available wall. The current artistic spread started in the heart of the neighborhood, in Carlos Lopez’s courtyard. His restaurant, Uptown Takeout, started fueling that artistic revolution, according to the artists.”It did start right here. We were right next door in the print shop,” says Lopez, as he chops wood for his grill. “They’re always painting this area, and this is going to spark up another fleet of murals.”And just down the street, you can see that happening. Adrene Bracy started HQ Wash and Detail. He saw the change happening with the art on buildings all around him. “I just wanted to provide some kind of contrast to the area, you know? There’s not too many positive things usually said about the area,” says Bracy. He wanted to be part of that cleanup and artistic revolution. So he hired Emmer_Cam, one of the artists who painted Lopez’s courtyard. Emmer_Cam agrees, as he paints the side of HQ Wash. “Almost everybody I know has art in this area. So I’m like kind of honored to be like part of the theme like the public side of it.””Having the kids be inspired, walking down the street versus it feeling so cold and depressed, you know? It’s exciting to full transition into something more positive for this area overall,” says Bracy.The artists and businesses have seen that. It’s an organic artistic revolution, created by the artists and businesses themselves. Del Paso Boulevard is quickly getting a different reputation. People are driving to the former art district to see the art and post on social. The artists and businesses recognize that the area is quickly becoming known for selfies rather than shootings. They hope it sparks people to walk into the businesses and see how much the corridor has to offer.”You know, it also turns our area into a destination as well kind of changes the perspective on, on what’s in the area, and people actually come out for the art,” says Aman Smith.The same artists cleaning up Del Paso Boulevard have painted murals throughout Sacramento. Graffiti for Good even got a commission to hire artists to paint alleyways throughout North Sacramento.

Three years ago, a restaurant in the Del Paso Heights neighborhood of Sacramento started a revolution. Rather than remove graffiti, they decided to use it to beautify the area.

Aman Smith’s building on Del Paso Boulevard had two incidents that damaged the front of his store. One of those was the fact someone tagged his building.

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Still, Aman isn’t giving in to graffiti. “I looked at it. And I was like, ‘Oh, I want to do something over that,'” he said. Stroke by meticulous stroke, he’s embracing it.

“We’re working on this mural that I started a couple of weeks ago,” says Smith, seated on a chair next to a Rubbermaid table. It holds all his supplies.

“This has been a project I’ve been working on, just to kind of beautify our, our area a little bit,” he said.

He takes pastels, permanent paint pens, and regular paint, shaking the cans so fast you cannot see the cylinder, and dips his brush in it. He slowly finishes the outline of a recognizable shape on the building.

“The owl is, in some cultures, a very prestigious animal,” Smith says, adding to the outline of a wing on his façade. “I kind of feel the same way represents wisdom and knowledge and, and kind of the definition of the brand and what we’re here for you know?”

He took the cleanup of the space he rents into his own hands. Not just covering the tag on his store but the windows broken in a burglary attempt.

“It’s hard, you know, it’s hard to keep these businesses going and keep people … coming through the doors,” says Smith.

“This used to be the art district,” says Smith, pointing out that years ago, Del Paso was known for art and artists.

But Aman Smith isn’t alone. Just down the street, John Blair and Norman Ayles have a plan for the boarded-up and broken window on a city-owned building on Del Paso Boulevard.

“We always just take it as a beautification aspect,” says Blair, grabbing spray cans and a piece of plywood. Not only will they paint, but they’re also repairing the boarded-up area of the broken window on a former shoe store. While they’re cleaning up the area they’re also creating a sort of renaissance.

“I think North Sacramento now has the most condensed amount of murals, especially on Del Paso Boulevard,” says Blair from inside his shop. “I think you can walk this 1.1 miles and see around 50 murals.”

These artists are just a few of the people using graffiti art to change the landscape.

“It’s a very American art form that just has now spawned worldwide,” says Blair. “It’s kind of like jazz music in that sense that it’s, you know, purely an American art form.”

Blair took that idea literally, combining one art form, his paintings, and jazz, incorporating the music of one artist into the cleanup of a vacant building. A QR code takes you to the music of the artist who inspired him: “We did the Thelonious Monk mural. Anytime we can, we can pull, you know, different art into murals … it’s all very similar as an art form.”

Graffiti for Good, the organization Blair founded, and a number of other collectives along Del Paso paint on any available wall. The current artistic spread started in the heart of the neighborhood, in Carlos Lopez’s courtyard. His restaurant, Uptown Takeout, started fueling that artistic revolution, according to the artists.

“It did start right here. We were right next door in the print shop,” says Lopez, as he chops wood for his grill. “They’re always painting this area, and this is going to spark up another fleet of murals.”

And just down the street, you can see that happening. Adrene Bracy started HQ Wash and Detail. He saw the change happening with the art on buildings all around him.

“I just wanted to provide some kind of contrast to the area, you know? There’s not too many positive things usually said about the area,” says Bracy. He wanted to be part of that cleanup and artistic revolution. So he hired Emmer_Cam, one of the artists who painted Lopez’s courtyard.

Emmer_Cam agrees, as he paints the side of HQ Wash. “Almost everybody I know has art in this area. So I’m like kind of honored to be like part of the theme like the public side of it.”

“Having the kids be inspired, walking down the street versus it feeling so cold and depressed, you know? It’s exciting to full transition into something more positive for this area overall,” says Bracy.

The artists and businesses have seen that. It’s an organic artistic revolution, created by the artists and businesses themselves.

Del Paso Boulevard is quickly getting a different reputation. People are driving to the former art district to see the art and post on social.

The artists and businesses recognize that the area is quickly becoming known for selfies rather than shootings. They hope it sparks people to walk into the businesses and see how much the corridor has to offer.

“You know, it also turns our area into a destination as well kind of changes the perspective on, on what’s in the area, and people actually come out for the art,” says Aman Smith.

The same artists cleaning up Del Paso Boulevard have painted murals throughout Sacramento. Graffiti for Good even got a commission to hire artists to paint alleyways throughout North Sacramento.

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