Just more than four months following the 2nd Annual Urban Art Throwdown competition at the 13th Annual Blue Plum Festival, two Throwdown winners had their unique canvases displayed in an unveiling ceremony in downtown Johnson City on Thursday.
Members of the Urban Art Committee had the art pieces for 2012 Overall winner Brandon Marshall and 2012 People’s Choice winner Ben Riggs framed and put up in the breezeway in between the Downtown Centre parking lot and East Main Street.
Eva Hunter, the mastermind behind the three-step crackdown program on illegal graffiti art, said she was excited to see her two-year project come to fruition.
Hunter, recycling marketing coordinator for the city of Johnson City and director of the Keep Johnson City Beautiful program, said the partnership with Johnson City Police Department, working alongside juvenile graffiti offenders and the juvenile courts, as well as the Throwdown competition at the Blue Plum was an initiative that has finally come full circle with the unveiling ceremony.
“We’re going to unveil the top two winners tonight and they (the painted canvases) will hang in this permanent display in the downtown breezeway,” Hunter said. “This is one of the first of many public art projects that the city is embracing.”
Shannon Castillo, director of redevelopment with the Washington County Economic Development Council and chairwoman for Graffiti Hurts, said she was excited to see the graffiti art displayed in the downtown area, among the city’s many projects downtown.
“We are doing a ton of renovation in downtown Johnson City to revitalize this wonderful area,” she said. “We know that ... the more public art that we can get into downtown, that also adds to making things just a lot more beautiful. It’s urban and graffiti art is a really interesting art form and when done legally is a really beautiful art form, too.”
Johnson City Police Chief Mark Sirois showed his support for the legal graffiti art unveiled Thursday night, as well as talked about prevention and awareness of illegal tagging in the city.
“Working together as a community we can make a significant impact on graffiti vandalism in our city,” he said. “The police department is appreciative of this community effort and we look forward to an even more beautiful Johnson City.”
Catherine Murray, chairwoman of the East Tennessee State University Art and Design department and Urban Art Throwdown judge, said the unveiling and the display of the two graffiti pieces shows both the community and the artists working together to create something positive.
“I think a lot of kids that get involved in this, in illegal tagging, do so because they don’t have a legitimate, creative outlet and I think this kind of project starts giving them a model for how to use their wonderful creativity in a legitimate way that can hopefully lead them into some kind of profession in the future,” Murray said.