From Wall Vandalism to Artwork

Growing up in Cebu City, Philippines, I got so used to seeing vandalized walls in our local neighborhoods and commercial districts. I'm sure a lot of Filipinos feel the same way. We hardly notice them anymore.  Ever since I can remember, wherever there was a big span of wall, local kids with spray cans seemed to be able to find them fast.

A perfect example is my grandmother's house with its huge gate. It always gets vandalized with spray paint by kids in her neighborhood. It often starts with a peace sign. The following day, someone's name is scrolled across the gate. Another day passes, and now 3 names decorate the gate. After a month or so, the gate is one big mess. When it reaches the point when my grandmother can't stand the sight of the vandalisms anymore, she calls a painter. And paints the gate one solid color.  Of course, you can probably predict what happens next.  A few days after the paint dries, you see the peace sign. And everything else starts to follow again.

The story of my grandmother's gate started when I was still in school. 20 years later, it's still the same story. While I admire my grandmother's persistence to beautify her home, I can't help but shake my head at the continued and uncontrolled vandalisms by local kids, usually by those living at poverty level.  This same vandalism culture can be seen on numerous walls throughout the city.

Then a few years back, someone (or some company or organization) thought of using long strips of walls as a blank canvass for paintings. The first one was at the Queen City Memorial Gardens (cemetery) across White Gold Club in North Reclamation Area, Cebu City. Art students were gathered, a paint company sponsored the piants, and the project was explained. The long strip of cemetery wall was divided into segments and each segment was assigned to an art student or group. They were told to create wall paintings revolving around a theme.

When they first worked for days on the walls, people would gather and watch. It caught people's interest and started us thinking that instead of randomly spray painting these walls, why not use the paints to express ourselves or to support a cause?

The results were great. The wall looked lively, people paused or slowed down to appreciate the artworks, and even the vandals couldn't seem to find it in them to ruin those walls.

With its success, other walls around the city were soon decorated the same way. Of course, the novelty of it soon wore off and some of these works got vandalized. But the organizers continued to think ahead. Instead of giving up the project, it became part of the plan to truly change the paintings every few months. So from time to time, these walls got a fesh new coat of white paint and then artists started making their wall paintings again.

It's been great. We get to enjoy varied artworks. We also see a different message in every new art theme introduced, including poverty and environmental awareness. And it has also given us a whole new outlook on what paint can do in the right hands.
Once again, it's all about using things the right way to get the right results.