Program offers Burlington taggers an artistic outlet

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 5:21 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - As the city of Burlington this summer works to address a graffiti problem that exploded during the pandemic, another group is looking to help channel local graffiti artists’ skills toward more productive community art.

Juniper Creative is made up of a family of artists who create community-focused pieces of artwork across the city and state. They want to help young graffiti artists move from tagging to other artistic endeavors by way of community art.

“You’re never going to be able to stop illegal graffiti, so our goal is to bring balance to the force, so to speak, bring that balance,” said Will Kasso Condry, who along with his wife, Jennifer Herrera Condry, own Juniper Creative.

Will says his interest in art started with graffiti tagging and then developed into a passion for large-scale community murals. “What we do at Juniper is to change that narrative. So, not just looking at these kids doing this illegal graffiti as a problem, it’s like, hmm, who can we pick out that actually has talent and help them mold that into something that’s more constructive over time,” he said.

They are currently working on a mural near the Burlington Farmer’s Market on Pine Street that was commissioned by Burlington City Arts to go over a building that had old graffiti on it. It’s their “Afro-pollinator” series which is popping up around Burlington and uses local children as subjects in the mural, highlighting Black youth’s innocence and joy.

“We’ve done everything in our power to make sure that the community, that we, are embracing them in our work, because the work that we do, we believe, benefits them. We do this for them, we do this for the kids. We do this for everyone who walks around here and doesn’t see themselves in the public arts sector,” Jennifer said.

Will says that programs are needed for people, especially kids, who do tagging to help bring them together in a structured way. “If there are not programs and things set up for them to take that tag and turn it into a mural, then you’re going to get more of the same,” he said.

Juniper Creative also encourages the community to have a hand in their work. For their current mural, community members were asked to come and paint shapes that are being used for the subject’s wings. “Bringing out community members to be part of the creative process gives them a sense of ownership and accountability over the work,” Jennifer said.

Even with ticketing by the police, they say taggers will always be around and that it’s about providing young graffiti artists with a positive outlet and mentors, maybe even suing their skills to develop a career. “The list is endless of all the great things that could happen when public art is nurtured and coming from a public place,” Will said.

They expect that the Pine Street mural will be completed by early next week.

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Burlington graffiti removal team takes on Sisyphean task

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