By Nick Brothers
If you’ve been on Dickson Street lately, you may have seen some of the graffiti on the traffic boxes at each intersection. As it turns out, it’s not graffiti — it’s art sanctioned by the city of Fayetteville and painted by Northwest Arkansas’ own artists.
The Public Art Program, as it’s called, is an initiative by the city to reduce the amount of graffiti that would often turn up on city property. Five designs were volunteered by local artists, which were accepted through an application process. The requested themes were recycling, nature or history. Rachel Rodriguez, Tina Oppenheimer, Robin Starr and Emily Berganza were the artists selected. The Arkansas Department of Community Corrections also contributed to the project.
The idea originated in Tampa, Fla., by what’s called crime prevention through environmental design, or CPTED. The city had been experiencing problems with graffiti on traffic boxes and decided to have artists paint over the traffic boxes to discourage graffiti artists.
“The plan worked very well, and they largely reduced graffiti in the area,” said Cpl. Daniel Montgomery of Fayetteville Police, who is also responsible for bringing the idea here.
Montgomery, who got the idea through a CPTED class that he went to about two years ago, said he hopes this plan will help the Community Oriented Policing Division of the Fayetteville Police Department, which is responsible for removing graffiti from public places and helping private citizens get graffiti off their property.
“The idea is twofold, one: the art will increase people looking at the artwork and how nice it looks, which should reduce the amount of graffiti to the boxes,” Montgomery said. “Two: Taggers/graffiti artists do not like to paint over someone else’s art work. I guess it is bad juju to them if they paint on someone else’s work. So hopefully they will leave these alone and this should reduce the crimes — criminal mischief — in those areas.”
Fayetteville in Bloom was the first organization that donated $1,000 to pay for supplies, said Brian Pugh, director of the board for Keep Fayetteville Beautiful. CertaPro of Fayetteville also donated to the program.
This is not the first public art project. The Fayetteville Water Department commissioned local artists to paint scenes on storm-water drainage covers to increase awareness of the drains leading directly to creeks and streams, thereby encouraging people to maintain clean water and avoid pollution.
Oppenheimer is a local artist who has participated in both community art projects. Her art can be seen on the storm drains at West and Dickson, in front of the Fayetteville Public Library and now on the
traffic box at West and Dickson.
“The project is based on two points of view. There’s the point of view of law enforcement where graffiti is illegal, but there’s also the point of view that comes from the graffiti itself as its own thing,” she said. “It’s quite generous of the police to be inviting artists to do this. It’s a pretty cool opportunity.”
“The people have been really supportive,” said Rodriguez, the artist responsible for “Abstract Koi Fish” at the intersection of Dickson and Gregg streets, in front of Flying Burrito.
Officials hope the project will instill community pride, and show the community that people do care how the city looks. Some traffic boxes are still in progress.
“I appreciate all of the efforts by the artists
to keep Fayetteville beautiful,” Pugh said. “They are doing this of their free will, and it’s great to see them give back to the community.”