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Teams of teens spend summer sprucing up county

The scene is all too familiar — a large cement wall a little off the beaten path, teens and paint. In this case, however, the teens aren’t tagging the wall. They’re creating murals to discourage graffiti.

“The Gang Intervention Unit came to us and told us that had some really prominent walls that kept getting tagged,” said Patrick Gaffey, Clark County Parks and Recreation cultural program supervisor. “They told us they’d like to cover those areas with art, put graffiti coating over it and just end the problem once and for all.”

To put that plan into action, Gaffey turned to the 15-year-old Summer Business Institute. The program is a collaboration among the Clark County Human Resources Department, the Clark County School District, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the local business community. The institute recruits incoming high school juniors, seniors and college freshmen for a summer internship to teach them life skills and business training and provide business mentoring while involving them in civic projects.

“Some of the kids end up doing stuff like shredding paper in offices,” Gaffey said. “We pulled together 10 kids who we are paying to work on art projects for 10 weeks as part of the Summer Business Institute.”

In addition to the 5,000-square-foot mural job along the Flamingo Arroyo Trail, near the Pecos-McLeod Trailhead, the group is building an art bookshelf in The Arts Factory at 107 E. Charleston Blvd., designing a new Arts District brochure, creating artwork from doors and windows saved from a historic building in Alamo and designing and painting the backdrops for a play at the Winchester Cultural Center.

Brian Larsh , who teaches art at Beckley Elementary School, is supervising the teens.

“I had been working with the Monkey Gym, a nonprofit organization which offers a variety of arts and physical fitness programs to kids at risk,” Larsh said. “Tony Cooper, the art director there, told me about this project, and it sounded perfect for me. It’s large-scale public art, which I love. I volunteered and only found out later that I’m getting paid.”

The mural project is south of the Pecos-McLeod Trailhead at the corner of the Pecos McLeod Interconnect and Emerson Avenue. From the trailhead, a previous mural created by kids from the Monkey Gym in Henderson can be seen. That mural has kept taggers at bay, but the walls of a nearby bridge are regularly tagged.

The new mural the institute teens are working on stretches along a wall and faces the Paradise Greens neighborhood across the channel. The homeowners association there is helping fund this portion of the project.

“We met with the HOA, and they gave us input, and we asked what they wanted to see over here,” said 17-year-old Daniel Seeley, one of the teens working on the project. “They like what they’ve seen. We get a lot of foot traffic and compliments. Ever since we started painting, the graffiti has stopped.”

Mike Randolph, a member of the Paradise Greens HOA, is a big fan of the project.

“A couple of my neighbors and I keep paint on hand to cover over graffiti,” Randolph said. “It was hit all the time. We still have the paint for other parts of the neighborhood, but we don’t need it for that wall anymore.”

The mural was designed through a collaboration of the teens and presented to the HOA by Seeley, who has taken on the role of project coordinator under Larsh’s guidance.

“It’s great. They’ve brought us back a little of our nature we lost when this was a wash,” Randolph said.

The project is expected to wrap up Aug. 18. The participants will start their new school year with work experience, money and friends they suspect they’ll keep in touch with for a long time.

“They’re great kids, and they’ve really grabbed this thing and run with it from the very first day,” Gaffey said. “It’s unbelievable how much they’ve accomplishing in such a short time.”

Contact Sunrise and Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 380-4532.

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