Athol Daily News – Athol Downtown Vitality Committee mulls strategies to fight graffiti | #students | #parents

ATHOL – At the most recent meeting of the Downtown Vitality Committee, a discussion on the future of the downtown Athol parking garage again morphed into a discussion on how best to fight the ongoing battle against graffiti. That then led to consideration of perhaps finding a location where aspiring Banksys might practice their art.

(Banksy is the pseudonym for a well-know English street artist who has been active since 1990. The identity of the artist, who has since done work as a film director, remains unconfirmed.)

Committee Chair Mary Holtorf initiated the discussion by noting that she plans to contact Public Works Director Dick Kilhart to see what the Department of Public Works might be able to do either remove graffiti from town-owned properties or cover it up.

“Here it is, mid-April, and it’s definitely warm enough,” said Holtorf, “and it’s been dry enough. We need to get some of that graffiti covered up; hopefully sooner rather than later.”

Athol Planning and Development Director Eric Smith also urged her to find out what the state uses to remove graffiti during the winter months.

“I owe MassDOT (state Department of Transportation) a call,” Holtorf responded. “They tagged the White Pond Road again …again.”

“I know I’m the young that’s going to say this,” committee member Paula Robinson interjected, “but I think we should have a graffiti wall, where we invite people to utilize as their place to go do their street art.”

“I 100 percent agree with this,” said Megan Waroner.

“It not only helps the town,” Robinson continued, “but it literally gives them the opportunity to go express themselves, whether it’s a tunnel or a wall that gets repainted once a year so they can start painting over. We need to give them some place, some kind of outlet so they’re not going to the properties that we don’t want them to go to.”

“I have mixed feelings about that,” said Holtorf. “I think one of the things to emphasize, if we do a project like that, is that tagging people’s property is a crime. It’s got to be some kind of education for the people who want to do those things.”

Waroner then added, “I think that having a wall where people are allowed to go and do graffiti, not only does it give them a place where they can do it, but it gives them a way to form a community, and to grow their skill set, and potentially also have a place where people who are professional mural artists in the area can potentially come and teach people techniques.

“I think if we don’t give people a place to do this, they’re going to do it wherever they can.”

“I’m coming at this from a student’s perspective,” said Robinson. “The boys in this area — from eighth grade into high school — they don’t have anything to do. We don’t have skate parks. The likelihood is it’s young males who are bored and are going around doing this.

“This would give them the opportunity to say, like, ‘Hey, did you see what I did this week? Look at that art that I did.’ It gives them an outlet. So, we’re preventing them from becoming potential inmates or having some kind of arrest record for graffiti.”

Robinson stressed she doesn’t excuse the graffiti around Athol, but feels a wall — or some other location — could help remedy the situation.

“And for the people who are really good at it,” said Woroner, “that’s something that could end up being a job skill. There are many people across the country — the area where I grew up in in Florida, there are so many people who have transferred into doing murals and are making a decent living doing that.”

“Do we have any sense of how much of the graffiti is by potential street artists,” asked Diane DiPietro, “and how much are people just marking their turf?”

“I’d say what we see around here is mostly people just marking turf,” Holtorf responded.

“Maybe we can look at combing the skate park concept and the wall art concept. Because they’re members of the same group, and they want the same things. They want their group, and they want to be seen. They want a little notice.”

No decision was reached by the committee, but members did agree that the issue — and proposals for diminishing the problem of graffiti — was worthy of further examination.

Greg Vine can be reached at

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