Graffiti vs art on the Gateway

So a colleague of mine, ok - my BOSS - brought a couple of photos in to work to show me this morning. He knows I enjoy biking the Gateway Trail, and that I cover the arts, so he thought I'd be amused by the visual debate.

On one side of a tunnel, there's this:


On the other side, written atop layers of graffiti that have been white-washed, there's this:

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Now, there are often bits of graffiti on the interior walls of tunnels along the Gateway, mostly harmless, and sometimes quite beautiful. For a while my favorite was one that said "Uff-da" just at the point in the ride where I was feeling exactly that sentiment. But inevitably the graffiti is cleaned up each year, leaving a wall patchworked in shades of white and grey.

Well, the images got me thinking, why isn't there any "official" art on the Gateway Trail?

It turns out, art is on the way.

I tuned in to a Gateway State Trail Podcast (yes, they have a Gateway Trail podcast! I couldn't believe it either), and learned that the Gateway Trail Association (They have an association, too!) worked with the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent, and the Mississippi Magnet Creative Arts School to create some original art for the trail.

Under the guidance of artist David Vang, 3rd, 4th and 5th graders came up with images that represent the word "welcome" to them. They then created approximately 300 ceramic tiles featuring those welcoming images.

The tiles are expected to go up at the end of June, affixed to a pergola next to the Arlington parking lot. Eventually the pergola will serve as a welcoming gateway to a community garden.

Gateway Trail Association boardmember Noreen Farrell says it's been a long time coming; she originally started pursuing art for the trail in the late 1980s.

We had seen some information from England about how they had art on their trail. And we thought this was wonderful. We've always wanted to enhance the trail and to make it very neighborhood friendly. We found out most of the people using the trail live within ten miles, and we wanted them to feel some ownership of the trail.

Well, at lease in the case of "Firefly Alley," it looks as though they already feel some ownership.