Arlington Graffiti Brigade spring cleanup wipes out tagging, dries up paint, supplies

By Douglas Buell

dbuell@arlingtontimes.com

ARLINGTON – Armed with paint brushes and rollers, volunteers with the Arlington Graffiti Brigade wiped out a spring outbreak of tagging at several hot spots around town, but it also drained supplies.

“We used up all our brown paint that’s good for painting over fences and trees,” said Vikki McMurray, leader of the graffiti-busting group that mobilized for its most-recent “Wipeout” work party May 4.

She said paint is the group’s biggest need. McMurray is appealing to residents and businesses to support the brigade’s efforts by donating money, paint and other supplies.

You can donate through the city of Arlington’s PayPal account at www.arlingtonwa.gov/349/Graffiti, in person at the police department at 110 E. Third St., or contact McMurray via the Arlington Graffiti Brigade on Facebook.

McMurray founded the brigade three years ago so the community could work with the city to eradicate graffiti and get more people in the habit of reporting it fresh when they see it.

Her garage has become the central storage place for exterior latex paint, brushes, rollers, trays and other painting supplies. She’ll accept any old outdoor paint.

She paid $110 for snacks, water and extra paint supplies at the recent event.

“I’m doing this for the city because I don’t like what graffiti brings. It’s what I do, but this wipeout was a little more complicated” with parties dispatched to different locations.

The brown paint went fast when volunteers repainted ten 10-foot fence sections hit by graffiti at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses on 67th Avenue NE.

“They were so appreciative; they thanked us and invited us all into the hall for lunch,” McMurray said.

The brigade also painted over tagging at the shuttered Buzz Inn fence near I-5 in Smokey Point, playground equipment and trees at Wedgewood Park, Zimmerman Hill Climb Trail, an underside section of Haller Park Bridge, and the tunnel at Gleneagle Golf Course that has been painted over three times now by brigade volunteers.

This time, McMurray said, instead of simply covering up the tagging she and others treated the tunnel like an artist’s canvas and let their talents out of the bag. Volunteers painted the tunnel walls a layer of robin’s egg blue, then added 16 leafy trees on one side, while McMurray added her own colorful flowers on the other.

The tunnel’s not done, either. “I want to go back, get a bunch of people there, bring their kids, and add painted butterflies, birds and more flowers,” she said. “I just need artists to put it on a wall.”

Among long-term goals, McMurray supports creating a blank living art wall somewhere in Arlington that gives taggers a more visible place to showcase their artistic talents when it doesn’t involve gang symbols or derogatory language.

“I want people to be able to express themselves,” she said. “I think the living art wall would make a difference” in reducing graffiti overall.

Their works would remain for a couple of years, then the wall would be white-washed for a new collection. The Arlington Graffiti Brigade has a public Facebook page at bit.ly/2H3gCUf for those who want to get involved or who have suggestions for spots that need to be cleaned up.

Victims of graffiti should remove it as soon as possible, ideally within 48 hours, police said. Call 425-407-3999. To report existing graffiti email police at police@arlingtonwa.gov or call 360-403-3400.

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