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Students Tackle Graffiti in Washington Wheatly

It was a recent chilly December afternoon when four middle schoolers met up with the CRT Graffiti Abatement team and LISC at 26th and Indiana in Kansas City, Missouri for an experiential field trip on graffiti abatement. The students and their teacher, Rachel Hand, are part of the Jobs for America's Graduates-Kansas (JAG-K), a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization that partners with students facing multiple barriers to success, at Turner Middle School in Kansas City, Kansas. The students are wrapping up their Art+Social Justice project to explore how art can influence and promote social justice. Two of the students chose to focus their art project on graffiti abatement after seeing articles on the CRT project online.

I liked going because not only are you taking down graffiti, you're trying to put up legal art. The trip was fun, actually, because they came to talk to us about what they were going to do. The man explained why he does it, and then we got to paint the wall, too. Thank you guys again!
— K'Siyah

The CRT Graffiti Abatement team was represented by Marlon Hammons, President of Washington Wheatley Neighborhood Association and team foreman for the CRT Graffiti Abatement project, Ryan Samuelson, Community Initiatives Specialist for KC Police Department's Strategies for Policing Innovation, and Amanda Wilson, Program Officer with LISC. The team first walked the students through an interactive discussion on graffiti and tagging, pointing out that graffiti is not street art and taggers do not have the permission of the building owners. They then went on to discuss how the students feel when they see graffiti, what message graffiti it sends to them, and the good work that is happening in this community even when there is graffiti present. 

I liked when we got to interact with each other and talk about how graffiti is NOT art. The guy who paints over the graffiti thinks it's not art. I like that they took a lot of pictures of us to document us helping. They were also kind and let us use their blankets because it was cold. They were interested in our art projects we did in school; you could tell they cared about us and the neighborhood.
— Olivia
After the discussion, Marlon fired up the paint sprayer and the group got to work on covering the graffiti. After a brief demonstration, the students took turns painting over their own section of the wall.
After the discussion, Marlon fired up the paint sprayer and the group got to work on covering the graffiti. After a brief demonstration, the students took turns painting over their own section of the wall.
On this field trip, I got to look at things from a different perspective: from the people who have to deal with the graffiti that happens. It's meaningful to know that people are actually doing something to stop it. I enjoyed meeting all the people involved who are making a difference.
— Abi
I liked the trip because we got to spray off graffiti. Also, we got to meet new people and learn more about the environment. I chose them for my art project because they help make a difference where people live. Graffiti shows if an environment is safe or not, and I like that they help make their neighborhoods safer.
— Jastin

The CRT Graffiti Abatement team anticipates beginning the graffiti abatement pilot project in early spring 2018 along Prospect Avenue. This year-long effort is funded by the City of Kansas City, Missouri's Neighborhood and Housing Department and will measure the effectiveness of the program’s abatement efforts compared to a control area without abatement. 

This was an incredible experience for my students. We did an Art+Social Justice project in our class, and 2 of these students chose this program to make their piece of art for. When we contacted LISC, they were excited about what the kids were doing and invited us out immediately. They made my students feel like an important part of the community, and I think they're learning that they can make a difference through their actions, including through their art!"
— Ms. Hand

The JAG-K program uses competency-based JAG National Curriculum to provide group instruction. The curriculum emphasizes graduating from high school and helps to prepare students for post-secondary education or entering the workforce directly through leadership activities, Project-Based Learning, guest speakers, field trips, college visits, job skills training, social-emotional learning, and community service. JAG-K is seeking volunteer opportunities and job shadows opportunities for their students. To learn more about the JAG-K program in Kansas visit or contact Rachel Hand, JAG-K Specialist, at or 913-288-4062. For information about the JAG-MO program in Missouri contact Paul Kincaid at or 417-425-5139.


Amanda Wilson