Graffiti Removal Project Partners With Local Artist
Santa Cruz County has received one more notch on its growing list of public art thanks to the efforts of volunteer artist and graphic designer Steve Rankin. Rankin has led the charge in partnership with the Graffiti Removal Project to complete their latest mural project along Soquel Drive in Soquel. Together they have rallied volunteers for the last month to prepare the 180-foot section of wall for a bit of vibrancy and local flavor with geometric/abstract representations of different elements of Soquel agriculture: strawberries, chicken feathers, eggplant, and artichoke. The mural is located along Soquel Dr. at Cunnison Lane.
“This wall has been a hotspot for taggers, and we are constantly using our resources and volunteer hours to cover up graffiti along this highly visible area. Murals have proven to be an effective way to deter graffiti and brighten up ‘dull looking’ areas. The mural will be finished with an anti-graffiti/UV coating,” states Graffiti Removal Coordinator Haley Turner.
Over the years the Graffiti Removal Project has partnered with artists, community members, city government and fellow non-profits to establish nearly a dozen murals and utility box displays throughout the county in the sustained effort against graffiti and community blight. The program was initially created 20 years ago in partnership with Santa Cruz County to tackle rising blight on private property and public spaces in the unincorporated areas of the county.
“We are looking at a very different landscape these days in terms of graffiti abatement. After extensive work with the business community to take on various prevention measures, we have seen a substantial decrease in the number of graffiti complaints by private property owners,” states Turner. “This is in large part due to dedicated volunteers and community advocates supporting the Graffiti Removal Project. Together we are making our community safer and more attractive.”
As a program of the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County, The Graffiti Removal Project engages volunteers in the effort to make local neighborhoods in the unincorporated areas of Santa Cruz County graffiti-free through sustained education and removal. In the past year they have mobilized nearly 200 concerned citizens to remove 33,581 square feet of graffiti.
Homeowners and businesses that have been victims of graffiti vandalism in the unincorporated area of the county can call the graffiti hotline to request that it be removed from their property free of charge.
Community paint-outs are regularly organized with volunteer groups to cleanup areas targeted by vandals and free prevention workshops are provided with information on strategies to reduce the incidence of graffiti through lighting, special paints, murals, and plantings.
The Graffiti Removal Project also maintains the initiative “Project Neighborhood Pride” encouraging neighbors to adopt areas in their neighborhoods and pledge to keep them clean. All materials and paint are provided free of charge. Neighborhood Pride volunteers are trained to respond to graffiti calls from the hotline and take action in their neighborhood.
“With removal kits provided by the Project, the volunteers can be ready at a moments notice to remove graffiti and assist the Sheriff’s department. The prompt removal of graffiti has been a key deterrent as studies indicate that consistent removal within 24-48 hours leads to a significant drop in vandalism, ” states Turner.
All materials and paint are provided to the public free of charge. The program boasts a small budget of less than $80,000 with one staff member working to handle hotline calls, identify sites, procure donations, and coordinate volunteers. Project funds come from both private donations and public sector funds.
“We have been able to leverage county dollars to maintain the program and have always been fortunate to work with local paint supply stores to garner donations for our projects. Most recently, King’s Paint & Paper in Soquel has donated 15 gallons of high-quality paint to help with this mural,” states Turner. “Success has been possible due to the vigilance and tireless effort of hundreds of volunteers like Steve Rankin who have supported the project over the years. I can’t say enough about the importance of their stewardship in contributing to the beautification and safety of our neighborhoods.”
Community members are encouraged to stop by to see their progress along Soquel Drive until the Mural Project is complete.
New volunteers are always welcome and encouraged to join the project. Individuals interested in learning more about the Project or donating to sustain the program can visit www.scvolunteercenter.org or call 831-427-5070.
Those who want to report Graffiti in the unincorporated areas of the county can do so on their website or via their 24 hour hotline at (831) 427-0462.