Tallahassee to implement graffiti abatement plan, while girls summer camp creates public art

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By: Monica Casey | WCTV Eyewitness News
July 18, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Widespread graffiti in Tallahassee may soon be a thing of the past; the City approved ordinances last month that give it the power to issue violations and fines if property owners do not clean up graffiti after being notified.

The Graffiti Abatement Plan will be a pilot program, going into effect in October of 2019.

Using a code enforcement process, Tallahassee will work with property owners on getting rid of graffiti.

"We are also doing more outreach to give more resources to property owners to know how they can correct the issue and sort of mitigate that," said Abena Ojetayo, the Director of Sustainability and Preservation Department.

In addition to eradicating eyesores, the City wants to beautify properties with public murals.

"For properties where it makes sense, where it's fairly public, and the space presents itself well, we're working with partners to make creative interventions," said Ojetayo.

The Girls Can Do Anything Camp, created by the Oasis Center for Women and Girls, helped the City with graffiti cleanup on Thursday, by creating a mural in the downtown Food Truck Court, which has been a hot-spot for graffiti.

The girls' work is a trial run of creating public art.

"Today we have been painting the wall to show our talents," said Kendall Tornes, a nine year-old at the camp.

"then the commissioner came over so we can paint that one square together, because all girls are all colors" said nine year-old Marlie Storey. "I'll never forget this moment."

City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox painted with the girls, working on one major square.

"This is my favorite one because we all got to do it together; we didn't have to stay in the lines, we didn't have to have the same color. This was a way for us to be creative," said Williams-Cox.

This week for the girls is "Girls Can Change the World Week."

"Today they learned about volunteerism and how any person can pick up a paintbrush and change the city they're living in," said Executive Director Michelle Gomez.

Murals in the graffiti abatement program will be funded through a portion of code enforcement fines collected by the city.

Graffiti in Tallahassee is a widespread issue, not limited to any one area.

"When we see unorganized and unauthorized graffiti, it kind of puts a stain on things, and so what we want to do is we want to come along and take that bad graffiti and make it look good, make it a piece of art," said Williams-Cox.

The issue of graffiti is more than aesthetic; it can hurt property values and negatively affect entire neighborhoods.

The goal of the public art is to make places in Tallahassee look intentional and inviting.

"Unifying and sustaining our community is really everybody's work, and so while we might have law enforcement or code enforcement that's involved, we really want everybody to take ownership," said Ojetayo.